It wasn't a shelter that I happened to pass or a donate button that I was asked to click, but rather it all started when I was sitting in a room full of people for program I recently attended. The person at the mic excitedly asked, "How many of you are going home for the holidays?" I rose my hand with pride as I looked around the room at the dozens of others around me who were raising their hands too.
Still, there were some other people that were in the room too.
They were hard to notice, being somewhat drowned out by the dozens of excitedly raised hands all around them. They weren't going home. I don't know all of their stories. They could have been like me these past few years, where I simply just lived too far to get home easily and opted to just stay with friends and recognize the season differently. That reality, however, doesn't take away from the fact that not everyone raised their hand. As I walked home from that event, I was reminded that words like "home" and "family" , "holidays" and "thankfulness" don't all resonate the same with everyone across the board. It's seasons like the ones we're entering into now where those very people are the ones that go unnoticed. Their pain is the pain that isn't paid attention to.
I write this letter to you.
I may not be able to speak for everyone when I say that I am truly sorry. I'm writing this to let you know that even though you may feel unseen and overlooked among all of the talks of being grateful, the Christmas music and the holiday programming, you are seen and you are loved. As you wade through the muddy waters of life, know that you are not alone.
To those who live really far away from home,
To those who have no home,
To those who are close but still feel far,
To those who are grieving the loss of a loved one,
To those who are preparing the transition of a loved one ,
To those who sit in the hospital rooms,
To those still reeling from tragedy,
To those who are brokenhearted,
To those who are misunderstood,
To those who just don't understand,
To those who are still finding their way,
To those who have yet to forgive,
To those who need to be forgiven,
To those who don't know love,
To those who have been rejected,
To those who've lost their smile,
To those struggling to find hope,
To those who need a friend,
To those whose wounds are still open,
To those who feel forgotten,
To those who hurt, who are in pain, who are frustrated and fearful,
and to those whose pain is undefined and unlisted,
Forgive us for not seeing you when you needed to be seen and for not listening to you when you needed to be heard. Forgive us for insisting that you participate in our seasons when we have failed to tend to you in yours. We cannot pretend to know your pain nor can we begin to know the words that can speak into it. None of these however, are excuses for ignoring it. We owe you phone calls and visits and unexpected cards in the mail. Our prayers are dedicated to you. When we hope, we hope for you. It is you that we honor this holiday season for your courage and bravery to wake up in the morning, get dressed and try again. And when our humanity causes us to fall short may you be reminded of God's promise of hope and restoration with these words from Isaiah 43:2:
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you."
I'm praying that the rivers of adversity will not overwhelm you and that life's troubled flames will not consume you, but rather that the unconditional love of God and the peace that passes all understanding will surround your heart and mind. It is in this season of thanks that I am grateful for YOU.