Thanksgiving is next week. As I’ve shared before, the holidays are hard for me. For all kinds of reasons, November and December are difficult months for some. We’ve had some unexpected expenses recently and they’ve reminded me again of what needs to be heard and better understood: access to money and resources is often what determines whether a holiday is genuinely celebratory or filled with masked smiles and forced pleasantries, creating a facade that hides anger, sadness, fear, and loneliness. Over the last three weeks, we’ve needed to replace two alternators, a set of tires, a car battery, resurface brakes, and pay taxes plus interest due to a clerical error on our part. We have yet to buy any food for Thanksgiving or begin shopping for Christmas. Whatever plans we might have had for our holidays have just been demolished. We have steady, stable income currently and the privilege of owning our home and two vehicles. In other words, we do have access to money and resources. Even so, we weren’t prepared for those expenses hitting us like dominoes. Most families of four have about $7000 in monthly expenses while the median income is closer to $6000 a month. By the numbers alone, some families in the U.S. do not have the ability to pay for unplanned emergencies, especially when they happen in quick succession. The stress I’m feeling right now is expected and reasonable, but I am not truly afraid. We may not have everything we planned, but we will have some gifts and some seasonal food and we won’t have to charge these luxuries to our credit card, sinking further into debt trying to make the holidays feel special. There are other parents who are legitimately frightened. Their holidays are filled with social expectations to provide experiences, food, and gifts as well as their time. When money is scarce, it’s nearly impossible to offer all of those things and sometimes, not any of them. People all around you are facing the upcoming weeks with various degrees of concern and worry, because it’s ridiculously hard to be happy without money. The people who smile and say, “money doesn’t buy happiness” have cash. They have the luxury of experiencing their lives not tied to the ebb and flow and ups and downs from each check to the next. It’s not as hard to be content when your basic needs aren’t immediately in jeopardy because “check engine” lights up your dashboard like a neon omen. I don’t wish to shame anyone for their privilege. I want to bring attention to the disparities around us. If you’re able to stress about a wish list and which person gets what wrapping paper, you’re living in a very different world than the family that has to rearrange their budget in December and January because the kids are now home eating breakfast and lunch instead of at school. Just like you may not understand why they don’t seem cheerful and festive, they might not understand why you seem oblivious to the realities of needs versus wants.