Each year I have the privilege of participating in the annual Thanksgiving dinner distribution event at the Yawkey Center in Dorchester. This past weekend I joined Catholic Charities President Kevin MacKenzie, Yawkey Foundation Chairman John Harrington, Yawkey Foundation Chief Executive Officer Maureen Bleday and a team of masked and socially distanced volunteers from the Foundation and Charities staff to bring some relief to individuals and families.
In 2020 we have more people in need than ever before. This year has been especially difficult, as many people experience significant disruption in their lives, particularly reduction or loss of employment and income, leading to food insecurity and homelessness. Expressions of commitment and concern are important, but those who are struggling need assistance, such as the annual Catholic Charities of Boston distribution event, which will feed 12,000 people this week alone. Pope Francis reminds us, “There is always someone who is hungry or thirsty and who needs me. I cannot delegate this to another. This poor person needs me, my help, my word, my commitment. We are all involved in this.” In the midst of the challenges in our communities, it is inspiring to witness the generosity of citizens across the Commonwealth as they assist their neighbors.
Most years, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year as millions of Americans take to crowded highways and airports to be with family and friends. Joining together at the Thanksgiving table is an expression of the importance of personal connection in our lives. Unfortunately, in 2020 we have not been able to be together in the ways to which we have become accustomed. The COVID public health crisis has reminded us how precious life is, as thousands of families are experiencing the absence of loved ones who did not survive the virus. In a special way, we hold them in our thoughts and prayers.
This year, many of us have discovered new and creative ways to safely connect through masked, social distanced visits, Zoom or similar video gatherings with friends and families and other means of safely being together. Sadly, many people without such social connections or access to technology are suffering the pains of isolation brought on by the pandemic. The mental health impact of the COVID crisis is significant, as stress and anxiety brought on by the effects of the illness on public health and the economy are increasingly evident. In a particular way, our elderly are experiencing feelings of increased fragility as they watch many of their peers become seriously ill and die. Their feelings of isolation and loneliness were exacerbated, ironically, by the very practices put in place to protect them. The lives of our children and adolescents have been marked by uncertainty and disruption. These are two conditions that are particularly difficult to tolerate at any time, but all the more so when the world
around them cannot provide either definitive answers to some of their questions or a rational timeline for when or even if things return to what they have always known. These are serious concerns for all of us.
At Thanksgiving, we seek to be grateful even in times of difficulties. Everything we have and that we are is a gift from God. May gratitude remain at the center of our thoughts and lives, and may those in need experience the blessing of the assistance of others. May we, each day, give thanks for the tireless dedication of our healthcare professionals who are serving on the front lines of the pandemic. In the midst of risks to their own health, they bring care to the critically ill while providing our families and loved ones comfort and assurance. These women and men are exceptional people who deserve our support, our respect and our unending gratitude. May God bless you and your loved ones at Thanksgiving and always.