We tell each other to have a happy new year as a matter of course throughout the holiday period. “May your wishes come true.” “What’s your resolution for the new year?” “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” We have New Year’s Eve parties to celebrate that a new year is coming. Implicit in these warm wishes is the expectation that the new year will bring good things.
This ”pivot” in our routine is a time to, perhaps, close the door on last year and look forward to positive change in the coming months. We resolve to lose weight, to improve a broken relationship, to correct our own behaviors that have created problems in our work life, social life, spiritual life… I believe that most of us face this resolve with a sense of hopefulness and trust that things WILL get better.
Over the Christmas weekend I spent a lot of time observing the way our guests were coping with such an important holiday, whether in their social interactions or their approach to what Christmas really means for them. I saw a world paralleling mine and yours. The women were concerned about not having gifts for their children or grandchildren. Many wanted to have a pass so they could spend the night or weekend with their family. Those in apartments hoped to be able to cook a meal for family members, have some decorations and gifts. First Light and our volunteers and donors put forth much energy to create opportunities for all of this to happen for our emergency shelter guests and those who have moved on to our housing programs. Gifts and food boxes were delivered; a “shopping” spree for donated new toys and games was given; there was a day to make Christmas cards; extra food was donated and we had breakfast, lunch AND dinner volunteers on several days; caroling and special prayer groups were lead. We did our best to provide a happy and comforting holiday. We gave shoulders to cry on and a gentle pat on the back to women feeling the pain of loneliness during this time when we are supposed to be with our families. We wept with a woman who had planned a pass to go see her grandchildren, only to find out her daughter changed plans and by the time she got there, the children would be gone.
As I sat at home watching holiday movies, cuddling with my dogs, I knew that no matter how lonely or homesick I might be feeling, it paled in comparison to what the ladies were going through because I KNOW that I can and will be with the people I love at some point. For many of our guests, the sense of hopelessness and brokenness surpasses any joy they might feel from looking at that beautiful Christmas tree we have in the Day Room. No matter your stature in society, rich or poor, we all know how the holidays SHOULD be…
In my heart of hearts I know that the best gift we can give our ladies is the chance, the place and the time they need to rebuild their lives while they are here. It is the time spent working on a life plan, examining what really needs to happen to end homelessness for them. It is the “work” they do here to reflect, to think, to pray, to search, to make positive change that matters the most. It always comes back to the social work that we do here, that can make such a significant difference in the life of a woman who needs to heal and fix her life and her “self,” however it needs fixing.
And so this leads us back to the question of what a New Year may bring. We wish our volunteers, our contributors and donors a Happy New Year. And let that mean whatever it needs to be for you. For our part, we want to continue to offer the women we serve a chance for a new day, a new morning, a new night.… that they will celebrate many small victories in their fight to overcome joblessness, generational poverty, a lack of education, mental or physical illnesses, improper coping behaviors. And God knows, a new year most certainly can only start with a progression of new days and nights.
It is almost time to celebrate 2011. It is not too late to join us in our efforts to create those new days and nights for our guests. I would ask that you consider whatever remaining charitable giving you might wish to do before the clock strikes midnight this Friday night. Contributions can be made online by going to our “donate now” section of the website. Just click on "give hope" and "donate now."
Every dollar makes a difference for women and their children who look to First Light for help and hope. We do our good work day in and day out and need the help our friends and community provide to sustain these desperately needed services.
We wish for you and yours a truly peace filled and happy new year. Whatever you might do to help us to extend the same to our guests will be much appreciated.