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Be aware of those around you; extend a helping hand

The Lakeville Journal Co. Editorial

Perhaps one of the rarest traits to survive the years of societal change due to the worldwide pandemic is empathy. Seems ironic, doesn’t it? Yet we have all witnessed or heard about the rudeness of some patrons at restaurants, the behavior some customer service representatives have received, or the aggressiveness of some drivers who feel their route is the most important one no matter who may stand in their way.

One thing we can all be sure of, however, is that nobody has come through COVID’s spread unscathed. If people haven’t had serious illness from the viral infection, then their family members were affected by it, or their earning power was, or they suffered losses of loved ones, family and friends, that were devastating.

Yet still many seem to try to do their best to continue on as if their problems were not overwhelming, to try to find ways to cope with situations they never foresaw in life.

This newspaper has had articles recently about the increased use of area food banks, which have seen more volume since the pandemic took hold in 2020. The increases surely mean there are people who have not needed to use the services of food banks until now. One person from Salisbury, Claudia Barnum, found herself in the food line at the Corner Pantry in Lakeville recently, and decided to share with our readers her experience, which she hadn’t expected to have until many difficulties took over her life and that of her family.

In a recent interview, Claudia said that the worst part of her financial hardship is the medical bills. First she, then her husband, broke bones that needed to heal. Her sister was in a serious car accident at Christmastime in 2021, and is still working hard to heal and recover from it. Claudia said she used to help volunteer at nonprofits, but now needs to tap into their resources. “I was a teacher at Region One for 35 years,” she said, “but even with a pension, still the bills could not be met. I was always a positive person. But now, isolation and hopelessness can start to take over.”

She waited in line at the Corner Pantry for about an hour, and said the people in line with her looked about the same; exhausted, done. What happened next took her into another level of sadness. Here are her words: “Today I cried my way through the food pantry line in Lakeville. I was very thankful for the help I received, yet so embarrassed because I needed it. I left the parking lot of the Church and pulled out on to the road leading into Lakeville Center. My mixture of gratitude and grief was interrupted by a loud, relentless car horn. A yellow Mercedes convertible was bearing down on me. It was obvious I had just left the food line, and we were, after all, at a stop sign. I thought, ‘What is life like from your perspective? Do you know at all what is going on around you?  Please, wake up!’ ”

Claudia is grateful for the help of the food bank, and of so many others in the community, during this hard time for her family. But her wish is that those who are doing well understand that many around them are stretched close to the breaking point. “Be kind – you never know what people around you are going through. Be compassionate. Do something positive and pay it forward for those who need help.”

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