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'Down and Out' at Holiday Time

December 25, 1991

This morning I stopped for coffee on my way to work as I always do. With my cup of coffee and my Times, I prepare for the day ahead. This morning I was touched, touched deeply.

The article "Down and Out in the Suburbs, With Dread in My Bones" (Commentary, Dec. 17) continues to tug at my heart. I thought of my own little girl, bright, sensitive and full of love. She too likes apple juice. When she looks up at me with those trusting innocent eyes I melt.

And I'm sure so does the author of this article. But in my case it's different. I can buy my daughter the apple juice.

Recently, I was in the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for my little girl. She had an ear infection and needed some medication. I didn't even give it a second thought. While in line, a woman in front of me was shocked how much her little girl's medicine was going to cost, $90. She didn't have the money to pay for it. She walked away, no medicine. I thought of offering to pay for it myself. Fearing I would offend or further embarrass this poor woman I said nothing.

For me it is particularly difficult to hear of or witness a child suffering or lacking even the basic needs. I am somewhat affluent and my children really do have a good life. For that I am grateful beyond words. There are so many worthy causes, so many children in need, so many seemingly impossible problems it is easy to shut it all out, knowing there is nothing I can do to really make a difference.

Now is the time of year when everyone's conscience is in high gear. The season of hope and charity, giving and loving. What of the rest of the year? I have a feeling that there are many with the same question and the ability to help a little more.

Maybe they too have been left immobilized by the sheer size and number of people in need. There are some who are more needy than others. How do we determine who should get what?

How long will this continue? Should I take care of another family besides my own? Should my children do with less so others can have some? How much compassion and caring can a person exhibit? How much is enough?

I don't intend to sound cold or heartless, I'm not. But it does get to me when it "appears" that we who do live a better life don't give a damn for those in need. There are no doubt many who could do more, some who do nothing but take care of themselves. But not everyone driving an expensive car or buying nice things is selfish and uncaring.

MICHAEL L. FRANCO

Whittier

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