If there’s anything that gripes my soul, it’s to hear someone complain about those less fortunate than themselves, “just not trying hard enough,” or “taking advantage of the system.”

Then there are those who say giving to the poor just enables them to stay poor, or to take advantage of those who would help them. I won’t deny that that happens.

There are people in every walk of life, rich and poor, who game the system. But that doesn’t mean that they all do. The vast majority of rich people and poor people alike are honest citizens just trying to do their best.

Our Declaration of Independence says “All men are created equal,” and with respect to the law, that is the foundation of our society.

But in reality we are not all created equal in terms of our physical and mental abilities, or as some would say, “our God-given physical and mental abilities.” Some are stronger than others, some are more intelligent than others, and that’s just the way it is, whatever the reason.

This means that some can achieve more than others, especially in particular areas.

But those who have the ability to achieve more should thank their lucky stars instead of looking down on those less fortunate, and they should be willing to help the less fortunate.

For one thing, luck plays a big role in many aspects of our lives. For example, you can come into this world with all of the financial and emotional support you’ll ever need or you could begin life as the child of a single mother addicted to drugs.

You can land a job with a company that goes gangbusters or with one that goes belly-up, taking all of your retirement savings with it.

We have always been a society of people willing to help each other with money or deed. We have the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, the United Way, Rotary International, and dozens of other organizations dedicated to helping those in need.

Here, in Idyllwild, we also have the HELP Center, now serving some of the needs of about 500 local families and individuals. That represents between 20 and 25 percent of our full-time residents!

A year ago the HELP Center was serving about 600 families and individuals. The number didn’t go down because things got better, it went down because things got so bad that many were forced to leave the Hill and move in with friends and relatives.

Before the recession began, about 175 local families and individuals were being served by the HELP Center, which goes to show that about two-thirds of the people currently in need of help were at least getting by before the recession began.

And let me add that if you aren’t shopping at the HELP Center, you’re passing up some of the greatest bargains you’ll ever find. And it’s not junk — far from it — especially the clothing that’s for sale.

Ben Killingsworth