The ‘Cost of Living Crisis’ has arrived – it is real, painful, and affects everyone. But we can get through it if we are all in it together. Supporting each other and anyone in need is a core value of the Christian community because of Christ’s example. ‘Encourage one another’ (Romans 15:1) is just one of one hundred verses in the New Testament with the same message – help and support in both word and deed.
A message for ‘the haves’
During the 1980s, the ‘Royal National Institution for the Blind’ ran a campaign with the motif, “What blind people need is more tea and less sympathy”. Our compassion works best when we act. Those who ‘have’ are positioned to bring relief, hope, and cheer to those struggling. Because this crisis will not end in three months or even in three years, here are four simple ways we can provide consistent, ongoing help.
A message for ‘the struggling’
The first problem to overcome is ‘pride’. The cartoonist Ben Jennings in the 24 November Guardian illustrates our current national reality. A father and son sit at an empty table in an empty kitchen. The son has a plate of food, but the father does not. The son says, “Dad – when will I be grown up enough to not need dinner anymore like you.” (1) We are not failures but victims – of national and international economic circumstances beyond our control. A visit to a food bank is not a badge of failure but a necessary godly activity to provide for and support families in these desperate times.
There were times in my life while raising a young family when I would go to the cash machine to withdraw funds a week before payday, only to read that painful message ‘insufficient funds’. Pride kept me from sharing with anybody – and I used the credit card to try to solve the problem. It did not – but made matters worse.
If you are struggling now, recognise reality, bin the pride, and seek help. If in debt, immediately contact creditors to manage repayments. Credit scores are certainly affected, and aspiration goes on hold, but the medium to long-term is repairable. Seek professional help from a free debt counselling service that will also help create a realistic budget. But also confide in one trusted close friend or family who can walk this journey with you. I remember doing this; our friends shared helpful advice and practical support.
But it is possible that during this crisis, as consumer expert Martin Lewis implores – “I have run out of solutions” – that is scary! (2) For this reason, we must also dig deep into our spiritual bank. I learnt a song as a child: “If I can help somebody, then my living will not be in vain”. God help me and each of us to live that value, particularly in these most challenging times.
David Neal is the Communication & Media Director for the Trans-European Division