Thanksgiving is one of several holidays throughout the year where family and friends gather to enjoy a meal with one another, talk about the past, and relax. I, like many, enjoy seeing loved ones that I don’t often get to spend time with throughout the year. I especially relish time with my grandmother who, at 91, can still light up a room with her infectious smile and boisterous laughter.
When I’m with her, my grandmother offers a welcome reprieve from the stress of everyday work and life. Just being around her and the rest of the family at Thanksgiving time gives me a ‘boost’ that carries me forward and makes it easier to overlook the trivial things that can sometimes ruin my day. It’s wonderful that simply being around those you love can help to put you in the best of moods.
Recently, I attended a celebration lunch at one of our partner groups, the YWCA. The YWCA is an organization that I’ve grown to admire over the past couple of years because of their commitment and work toward eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. This mission has prompted the organization to provide comprehensive housing and life skills services for homeless women who face addiction, domestic abuse, mental illness, and a range of other challenges.
At the celebration, 12 women from the Transitional Housing Program were being recognized for their successful completion of a program that has empowered each to maintain steady employment and gain access to personal housing. As I listened to each woman speak, it made me realize how similar we all are in terms of what we want in life; home, family, love, and purpose. Some of us find our pathway to these things easier than others. For those that have an easier path, it can become easy to judge or criticize those who must fight against the currents of addiction, abuse, mental illness, and more.
As each woman received a certificate and shared their personal story, I couldn’t help but think about my own life and struggles. What I would typically classify as a ‘bad day’ or a ‘life obstacle’ pales in comparison to the challenges that had been faced and beaten by each participant. The strength, courage, and determination that each put forth to make a change in her life is admirable and inspiring.
Following the conclusion of the participant speeches, everyone’s attention refocused to the lunch before us. We ate, talked, and laughed with familiar and new faces. And as I sat at the table, my mind couldn’t help but to drift to thoughts of my grandma and her laughter. I realized at that moment I was experiencing the same feeling of warmth and mental lift I get when around her and the rest of my family.
We all want the same things; home, family, love, and purpose. For the women exiting the Transitional Housing Program, they had a new opportunity to pursue each of these aims on their own terms. For the partners assembled, we had the pride in knowing that our efforts played a piece in helping to inspire and motivate each woman find her own pathway to personal empowerment. I’m thankful that we could be together to celebrate with one another for these many individual and mutual successes.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!
By: Paul Woodruff – Executive Director