The subtle shades of summer green have given way to brilliant colors of scarlet red, burnt orange and sunglow yellow here in the Hudson Valley. As the sun rises each morning a golden glow bathes the mountains and the world feels warm and cozy. I've lived on the mountain for ten years and I know the warm fall colors and crisp temperatures of autumn will give way to the bitter cold and ice blue colors of winter. Now is the time for reflection on how our community cares for the less fortunate as we gather our family and friends together for a holiday season of hearty meals and gift exchanges.
The stories we tell ourselves as a nation has bolstered the belief that each and everyone of us is the master of his or her destiny. The idea that fortune smiles upon us and that we are where we are in life is not so much a result of our hard work but because we were fortuitous is abhorrent to many. Our homes, cars, education and other material goods are the fruit of our labor and we become incensed if that belief is challenged. But what about the individual who worked hard and has not been so fortunate? The spectator who was maimed while standing at the finish line at the Boston Marathon in 2013 or the elderly couple who worked all their lives but now find their savings is not enough to live on or the young father who is fighting desperately to beat cancer, are their struggles the result of their lack of dedication or hard work? Does it matter? Do we only help those in our community who "deserve" help?
My question is how do we as a community care for those who have not been as fortunate? Or more specifically, how do you and I care for those in our community who are in need? There are government programs that act as a social safety net and many volunteers run programs that assist but how do we reach out person-to-person to aid the members of our community? Do we stock food banks, run coat drives or write a check to the Salvation Army? In creating community, it isn't only about being with people "just like us". Community is about connection, friendships and respect. How do we create healthy communities by including everyone?