To the editor:

If this year has taught us anything it’s that at the end of the day, despite race, ideology, religion, or economic status we’re all but mere mortals in the survival game that is life.

This holiday season will not look the same for many families and many of your fellow friends and neighbors who on the outside may very well appear to have it all together. People in this community are suffering and struggling financially. Realize that while programs like West Central Community Action, Social Services, United Way, and even Salvation Army are here to support lower-income families and people in need, these programs often are long, tedious and humiliating processes to go through. Whether it’s being questioned about your financial literacy or being subtly shamed for not being part of a church community, you’re often left feeling like there are no resources for immediate needs, which continues a toxic and mentally straining cycle of always worrying about what fire you’ll need to put out next.

This Christmas, look beyond the sparkles, toys and material things, and meet people where they are. Give with dignity and a whole heart that needs no recognition or applause on social media or elsewhere. Offer up to pay a bill for a struggling mom. Give the gift of time by taking your neighbor’s kids for an evening so mom and dad could finally get a date night out or better yet, a nap! Drop the small-talk and allow a friend who’s been struggling with mental health the space and safety to relax, have a cup of coffee and vent frustrations to an empathetic ear.

Let’s find ways to renew other’s quality of life after a year of chaos and emotional strain without making them feel like charity chaos. Let’s put humanity on our Christmas list and lead with genuine love and kindness.

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Jo Ciceron

Alexandria, MN