On Christmas Eve, I attended a lovely candlelight service, with lessons and carols and music, all reinforcing the messages of peace, joy, hope and, above all, unconditional love shown to mankind in the form of a son, put on Earth to teach and model the virtues of feeding the hungry, helping the poor and healing the sick.

Despite prosperity for some, many people are living in great hardship. While it is heartening to see the tireless efforts of faith communities, community organizations and dedicated individuals helping, the needs remain great.

Reading the newspaper at a time of holiday observances, two alarming pieces stood out: Staff Writer Scott Thistle’s front-page Dec. 22 news article, “Maine gets green light on Medicaid work rule,” and the Dec. 21 editorial, “Our View: Food assistance not safe from harmful cuts” (Page A6).

Both pieces deal with the ongoing controversy of whether work requirements should be imposed on some single adults who receive government benefits. Actually, before the expansion of Medicaid was even implemented in this state, these restrictions were sought. As Thistle reported, the implementation of work requirements in Arkansas has caused some 16,000 people to lose coverage.

These arbitrary conditions are referred to as “programs” and “reforms.” They are neither.

There is no attempt to determine and overcome an individual’s barriers to employment and help address them. There is no plan, no research base – just conditions. There are no easy solutions. The editorial suggested a higher minimum wage to ease the hunger issue; a single-payer system would address numerous health care issues. The solution will most likely be a number of different programs and policies.

The answer is not to put arbitrary conditions on the basic human needs and rights of food, clothing, shelter and health care. What is needed is for people to act in accordance with basic moral principles and rally, in good faith, to find solutions.

Jean Sawyer