The school that my children attend celebrates a “virtue of the month.” Not surprisingly, November’s virtue is “Gratitude.” As part of the monthly activities, each student is asked to reflect on the blessings in their lives. My children came home from school last week with an amazingly comprehensive list, including each of our pets (including all eight chickens by name), our church, learning to read, “Wipeout!” (their favorite television show), their toys, their siblings(!), popcorn, toothbrushes, Halloween candy, a safe house, a special blanket, and a warm bed. Honestly, I was pretty impressed . . . and humbled.
The holidays — Thanksgiving through New Years — are a difficult time of year for many people. Depression and challenges abound. We remember those we lost over the years in an especially poignant way. Add to that fact a poor economy, rising prices, and high unemployment and it can seem very difficult to step back and be grateful for those blessing we do have. Here at Catholic Charities, we see the struggles our clients face on a daily basis and, despite our best efforts and your amazing support, we aren’t always able to help them overcome each of them. Let’s face it . . . life in this world has been, is, and will be hard.
That said and acknowledged, we have many things to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. While we cannot choose the situations we have been placed in and the challenges that face us, we can choose our responses to those situations, and that can make all the difference. As Chuck Swindoll said:
“Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitudes toward life. The longer I live, the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.”
Catholic Charities is making the choice to focus on the amazing gifts we have received through our community, our clients, our supporters, our volunteers, and our staff this past year. Taking a cue from my children, we realize that no gift is too small, so contribution too little . . . all are essential and all change lives. This list is not comprehensive, but gives you a glimpse of our gratefulness . . .
- Amazing volunteers who give of their time and talents to support our agency, client, and community.
- Donors and funders who give generously and, in so doing, enable us to work with those most in need.
- Staff who go above and beyond, working whenever and however needed to support our efforts and our clients.
- Safe, warm, clean buildings in which to work and provide services.
- Facilities in which to provide shelter, transitional housing, and permanent housing to those who don’t have a home.
- Safe and healthy babies born to Caring Network clients who made life-affirming decisions.
- Families who have been reunited, overcoming challenges, to face a bright future.
- Youth who participate in the Youth Advisory Board on a weekly basis, working to make their community better.
- Mother-Friends who work closely with new moms, supporting them and helping them develop safe, healthy families.
- Families, individuals, and couples with improved mental health, better able to cope with challenges.
- A successful name change — from Catholic Family Services to Catholic Charities — and all the great support in this effort.
- New events, ideas, programs, and opportunities to strengthen our community and agency in 2013.
- Technology resources to support our work and encourage collaboration that was previously not possible.
- Great partner agencies throughout our community and region who work to support our clients and agency.
- Freedom to come together as a staff and pray.
We hope this list has provided you with some understanding of how thankful we really are and inspired you as you deal with your personal challenges this season. We encourage you to take time either by yourself or with your family and reflect on all the good things in your life. You might be amazed at how many there really are. Take the next step and tell those people who are on your list that you are thankful for them. You can make their day!
If you’d like to read more about the specific impact some our services have had on four clients (out of thousands), we invite you to check out the “Client Stories“ section of our website. We would also love to hear from you. As a community, let’s choose to celebrate the blessings we have been given. Happy Thanksgiving — with an attitude of gratitude — from Catholic Charities Diocese of Kalamazoo.