During the holidays, we often hear stories about how much people are shopping. In fact, you can’t turn on the news on Black Friday (or the Monday after, or the day after that, or the day after that…) without hearing about holiday shopping.
What you don’t hear enough about are the people who are down and out, in need of our help. Sure, it was great there was a 12-12-12 concert for victims of Hurricane Sandy. But what about everyday folks who just have fallen on temporary hard times?
That’s why The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund warms my heart. For the past 100 years, the Fund has provided direct assistance to children, families and the elderly in New York. Each day during the months of December and January, they highlight a story from their Fund. In a city of over 8 million people, it’s not hard to find people in need.
Today’s story is about a man who worked for over a decade as a home health aide, over 75 hours every two weeks. When he was most in need due to a kidney infection, however, he found his own health insurance wouldn’t cover his medical expenses. Which in turn sent him into a spiraling depression.
Thankfully, he had his hospital bill covered by government insurance, but that didn’t stop the depression from taking hold of Tolentino Gonzalez:
A social worker at Interfaith helped to secure him Medicaid on a temporary basis, which covered the hospital bill. When he was discharged, Mr. Gonzalez was told that he needed to schedule a follow-up appointment with a doctor, but he said that without coverage, he was unable to do so.
What followed was a depression so severe, Mr. Gonzalez said, that he did not want to get out of bed and stopped going to work. While he loves his job, he says it comes with a particular downside — a sense of rejection that would intensify his feelings of worthlessness.
“I haven’t seen them, haven’t helped them, but I get turned away,” Mr. Gonzalez said of some of his clients.
Men, especially, have a great deal of self-worth invested in their job or what they do for a living. Take away that job and many men suddenly face questions they may not have asked themselves for a long time — what’s my purpose in this world? What good am I if I’m not working? How can I be independent without a job?
This story has a happy ending, of course — the Neediest Cases Fund helped him with his back rent so he didn’t become homeless on top of everything else. “He soon returned to work part time and was able to avoid eviction.”
Betty Morales, a caseworker at St. Leonard’s Family Apartments, an affordable-housing complex in Bushwick, Brooklyn helped Mr. Gonzalez by listening to him, too. “When he came to me, he was still in that stage of depression,” Ms. Morales recalled. “He didn’t feel encouraged. There was nobody to encourage, nobody to listen.”
Sometimes that’s all we need — a little help, and a willing ear who will listen.
Here’s hoping you get what you need this holiday season, too — and that it doesn’t involve something you bought in a store.
Read the full story: Denied Insurance, Then Facing a Spiral of Depression