Without commitment, our city, and our neighbors, will suffer.

To the editor:

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” —-James 2:16-17

In today’s world, one need only to turn on the television a few moments or scroll through our online news source, and we are assaulted with images of violence, hunger, homelessness, and natural disasters. Closer to home, we are confronted with a more slow-motion emergency, where our own neighbors are experiencing homelessness, food insecurity, domestic violence, and active addiction, sometimes on the street corner, and sometimes behind closed doors down the street.

In a training on community health, someone once said “the only thing separating someone ‘in crisis’ from someone who ‘struggles’ is that the one who only ‘struggles’ has people to support them, and the one in crisis has no safety net.”

I am fortunate to have family that loves me, an education to provide employment options, and a church that strives to provide for every member of our faith community.

As a transplant to this rural community, I am encouraged by the outpouring of love and support on social media sites like the Smalltown Strong Facebook page, where people can promote small business, rally for families with a sick loved one in the hospital, or raise money for local charities. But the opposite is also often true: in a rural community, there are few formal resources for people in crisis. If you’re homeless, hungry, sick, or unemployed, and have no one to support you, you’re in real trouble.

If someone in trouble doesn’t fit the model of a sympathetic, “deserving” neighbor, are they any less in need? Are children more deserving of homelessness because their parent is unable or unwilling to hold employment? What if a woman’s untreated mental illness hinders their ability to make positive life choices? Should we stop supporting the recovery process for a man fighting addiction because they relapse? We all want a ‘success story’; we want to see people who made it through their struggles to the other side—happy, healthy and safe. But are we willing to walk with them through their crisis? More to the point: are we willing to help them with our actions, our time, our talent, and our treasure? As James so clearly wrote it in the Bible,

“Faith without works is dead.” He spoke of faith in God—but similarly, faith in our community is dead without our actions and our investment.

If we want our community to thrive, we need to ask ourselves: what am I doing to help my neighbors? Without action, faith is dead. Without commitment, our city, and our neighbors, will suffer.

Lindsey Sarver, Seymour