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Hope for the Holidays: Finding Strength During Dark Times

December 23, 2008

Chicago, IL - In movies and advertisements, the world is picture-perfect and the holiday season is a time of happiness. However, this year's real-life social and economic pressures paint a much different picture for many in Illinois.

Even when times are tough, experts say, hope can be found by recognizing one's inner strength and making an effort to help others. Jackie Hovde is director of counseling in suburban Chicago for Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. Hovde says, in most cases, people don't realize how strong they really are.

"In easy times, we just go along and everything is great, but we don't know really what strengths we have until we have to resource them in harder times."

When personal setbacks occur, she explains, it's important to gain insight from them and learn to empathize with others in greater need. For those who are feeling depressed or anxious, she adds, it helps to recognize these feelings and find someone with whom to share them.

"Acknowledge that there are some hard times, and look at the resources and get the help. There is affordable counseling, and people who can give you support when you need it the most."

Another important way to work toward hope, according to Laura Dean Friedrich, director of education and advocacy for Protestants for the Common Good, is to help change public policy.

"It's when we have a collective voice that says we need to make changes at the local, state or federal level. You've got to talk about income supports for people who are desperate right now, while you work on a strategic plan that says, 'These are the kinds of things we need to put in place in order to reduce poverty.'"

Freidrich points to funding increases in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program this year, as well as a recent summit on poverty in Illinois, as proof that there is hope for change when people get involved.

Mary Kuhlman/Elizabeth Grattan, Public News Service - IL