For as long as I have been writing Christmas letters, I have assumed the folks reading were better off and more stable than our neighbors here in Walnut Hills. This year, however, I am not so sure.
Oh, I know the economic crisis hasn’t brought you down to worried-about-your-next-meal status, but I also know that most of us don’t measure our well-being in absolute terms.
Instead, we compare how we are doing right now against our past experiences and expectations. By that standard, I think, it isn’t the permanently unemployed or the perpetually dependent who are hurting most these days but those folks who are used to working hard, paying their own way and even looking out for the less fortunate.
People keep asking me if this economic crisis is going to stop us from caring for our neighbors. Happily, the answer is no. We may have to do it differently, but the good news about having almost no programming is that there is almost no programming to cut when money gets tight. Our Monday dinners may be more potatoes and less meat, and our vacation next summer may be a day-trip to Indianapolis instead of a weekend in Chicago, but beyond that nothing much will change. Our relationships here are practically recession-proof.
For many other ministries I know, however, things are much worse. An old friend of mine neatly summarized the problem: “When budgets get tight,” he said, “goodness is almost always the first thing to go.”
As ministry supporters ourselves, Marty and I know just what he is talking about. All of a sudden, as we are facing difficult choices about our kids’ educations, we realize we can’t give away as much money as we used to. Even so, we don’t have to look very far to see people in much worse shape, who can’t afford for us — for any of us — to stop caring.
So then, instead of another story, this month I am writing to you with a simple request: As we settle into what may be a long hard time, don’t let your goodness to others be the first, or the second, or even the hundredth thing to go. Like our little fellowship here in Walnut Hills, you may need to care for your people in different ways than you are used to, and you may not be able to send as much money to ministries like ours, but for God’s sake, and for the sake of his neediest children, keep doing what you can. And as you do, know that we are praying for you, with both concern and thanksgiving.