Friday, December 24, 2010

A Very Merry Christmas

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By Ed Orzechowski
President and CEO

Recently I enjoyed lunch at our Dorothy Day Program, a transitional housing program for women in Bethesda, with residents and staff. I asked the woman sitting across from me what Christmas meant to her and if she was looking forward to the holiday.

She paused for a moment, then broke into a huge smile. “Yes, for the first time in a long time, I am looking forward to celebrating Christmas,” she said. “I have a warm place to stay, I have a family to celebrate with here and I have hope in where I am going.”

This is what we do with your help. We give second opportunities. We make Christmas a time for warmth again and an end to the loneliness and uncertainty.

 Across all of our 78 programs Christmas has been unfolding for our families. I am truly awed and inspired by the generosity from the community to support our neighbors.  Christmas gifts have been pouring in for children who might otherwise have nothing to unwrap. Warm clothing and home cooked meals are being donated to our housing programs. At our Kennedy School for children with disabilities, we had a wonderful Christmas party hosted by the great folks at Gallup. Our New York Avenue Men’s Shelter will hand out brand new warm clothing donations to more than 360 residents.

At this time of the year, I often think about how Mary and Joseph must have felt when they were told there was no room for them in the inn. More than likely, Mary and Joseph felt like many of the people who come to Catholic Charities first feel.

Alone. Uncertain of the future. Worried about their family.

Thankfully, as a community, we have learned to live out Christ’s message of love, acceptance and compassion throughout the year. Together, we declare that everyone – regardless of who they are – deserves dignity, respect and an equal opportunity to feel hope.

After all, that’s what my lunch companion at Dorothy Day was feeling about this Christmas. Sure, she still has much work ahead of her to overcome the many challenges with recovering from homelessness. But now she has a plan – a way forward.

And that is quite a gift.

Merry Christmas!