The Gift of Belonging

125Have you ever been in a situation where you just didn’t belong? 

Maybe everyone was looking at you, silently assessing and judging you.   Perhaps you wore the “wrong” clothes, had the wrong accent, lacked the right credentials or education, didn’t know the right people, had a different faith, a different race, a different history, a different story…whatever the reason, you simply weren’t accepted.   You didn’t belong.

Take a moment and think — really consider — what it feels like to be on the outside.  Hopefully this scenario hasn’t been a frequent one in your life.  It’s uncomfortable, painful…and lonely.

In our communications this fall Catholic Charities spent time focusing on one of the most meaningful gifts we give our clients on a daily basis — the gift of belonging.  You see, many of our clients have never truly been welcomed into a community, a place they are accepted just as they are and valued for being the unique person they are.  To the contrary, many have been in relationships and situations where they are judged, abused, ignored, or forced to be something or someone they aren’t.  They’ve been lonely — and often they’ve been alone.

Catholic Charities is blessed and honored to fill a special and unique role in the lives of our clients.  We are humbled to be that one place where our clients feel safe — and where they know they belong.  This precious gift can only be given as the result of the generous support of myriad donors, volunteers, staff, interns, and partners.  No matter how you might be connected to Catholic Charities — and if you aren’t connected to us yet, we invite you to become a part of our community — you have helped us to give the gift of belonging.  In 2013 alone, we have watched thousands of people gently “open” the gift of belonging.  We’ve seen its amazing impact as it empowers the powerless, creates hope for the hopeless, and gives our clients the confidence to build a world in which they can thrive.  It’s amazing what you can do when you know you belong — and you are loved just as you are.

Why do we place such importance on this gift?  Simply put, it is our mission and our calling.  We believe each person deserves to be treated with dignity and compassion.  Even more than that, we believe we are called to be the bearer of such amazing gifts.  For if we don’t do it, who will?  As St Teresa of Avila so beautifully stated:

“Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours.  Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.”

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, we pause to reflect on the amazing gifts and blessings we have been given this year.  We are grateful for our supporters and our community.  We are grateful for our dedicated staff, giving their all each and every day.  We are grateful for volunteers who answer our call and share their gifts with our agency.

Perhaps most importantly, we are grateful for our clients.  They have trusted us, taught us so much, and partnered with us as we seek to help them build better lives.  They have called us to be our best selves each and every day — to be the hands and feet of Christ in a troubled world.  In so doing, they have given us the gift of belonging…for we belong right here, walking with each and every client in moments of holiness as we do the work of Christ step by step.

May you also experience the gift of belonging this Christmas…as well as peace, hope, and joy!