Remembering families in the U.S. this New Year

Every year about this time, I list goals for the upcoming year -- new year resolutions, if you will. I know it’s kind of cheesy, but I love that feeling of starting fresh.

Then, I think about some of the families I’ve met in my work as a World Vision communicator in the United States, and I realize that they don’t have time to think about these kinds of goals.

For many U.S. families living in poverty, it's a struggle just to provide food and shelter for their loved ones.

One such family is the Cutrights from West Virginia.

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Julie Cutright, 26, opened the door to her trailer, holding her 2-year-old daughter, Aubrey, in her arms. It was cold inside -- cold enough that I wanted to keep my winter coat on, but Julie only had on shorts with a sweatshirt.

Two-year-old Aubrey has to use a nebulizer to help her get over her frequent colds. "We deal with this most of the winter," says her mom, Julie Cutright, 26.

“There’s [cold] air that comes from everywhere,” Julie told me. “You don’t know where it comes from. You can plastic stuff and cover it, and you still feel it. It’s terrible.”

After an electrical fire, Julie’s husband, Johnny, disconnected the faulty breaker, so they have no electricity in the front room and no way to heat their house except a wood stove.

Also, their water heater leaks, so they leave it off, resulting in a three-hour wait when they do need hot water. If they kept it on, the moisture from the leak would lead to mold in the house, which is bad for anyone, but especially for Aubrey.

As an infant, Aubrey spent a month at the hospital in an oxygen tent with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).  It’s done permanent damage to her lungs, making her more susceptible to respiratory infections.

Aubrey was still in her pajamas at midday when I met her. She had a deep cough that sounded more like it belonged to a lifetime smoker.  The wood fire isn’t good for Aubrey -- but it’s either that or freeze.

Johnny has been out of work for over a year, and Julie just got laid off from her seasonal waitress job.

Julie applied and is assured the same job when the tourist season begins in April. Her re-hire date is the week her second child is due. Julie said she’ll take that week off, but then be back at work the following week. That’s how much they need this income.

When I was there, Julie’s husband, Johnny, was out deer hunting. For some, hunting is sport, but for this family, it means having a supply of food through winter.

“Food, food. Wonderful food,” Julie looked away. “When you don’t have much, you appreciate it a lot more and it helps you out a lot more. A lot more.”

Johnny just applied for a security job. “Hopefully, it’s not like everything else. It’s just so hard to get a job right now,” said Julie.

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As I think about Julie's family while I spend the holidays with my own, I'm reminded that the tough situation facing Julie's family is not so rare anymore. Julie's story is shared with more families than I can imagine -- or even want to imagine this time of year.

As you’re making new year resolutions or just celebrating the start of 2012, please remember families like the Cutrights who don’t get to have that feeling of starting anew. It’s just a continuation of the struggle against overwhelming odds to provide for a child like Aubrey.

Change lives with your year-end gift. Help give American families like Julie's and Aubrey's a better start in 2012. Donate to provide assistance where needed most in the USA.

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