January 15, 2021

Our Works of Charity / David Bethuram

Make it a happier new year by prioritizing what’s important

David Bethuram

As we venture forward into the unknown of 2021, we can do so in fear, because of what we witnessed these past 12 months, or we can do so in hope, because of what we know we can accomplish when we put our faith in God and band together with our sisters and brothers.

We don’t need a resolution or even a calendar to do that. All we need is the ability to step outside our own wants and needs to glimpse the storm around us, and maybe help someone in need to safely get out of the storm.

Someone like Alejandro, 64, who was never allowed to go inside a building to visit his mother and father who reside on the second floor of an assisted living residence in a neighboring state. His parents are 92 and 95.

Weather permitting, they could step out onto their tiny balcony and they and Alejandro would shout sentences up and down to one another about how well things were going, even if they weren’t going so well. Soon his parent’s voices would give out, and they would wave goodbye until the next week.

Alejandro would leave a bag of goodies for them at the front desk and drive away fighting back tears. Month after month, he dreaded the thought of them getting sick and dying with no chance for a final hug and kiss. He hated how the coronavirus was stealing whatever waning years of contact they had left.

Or someone like Rebekah, 33, who said her children were troopers at first. They cooperated with the remote classroom schedule, wore their masks, washed their hands often and tried to keep the proper social distances as much as an 11-year-old and 15-year-old can. But as the restrictions continued, she could see they were turning more and more of their homework time into a permanent vacation. And even that was getting old fast.

Texting, FaceTime, tweets and blogging kept the kids occupied for a while, but as the weeks turned into months they missed being with their friends and all the team sports and school activities that were either closed or off limits.

When her husband got laid off from his job, she had all three of them underfoot. That’s when the light at the end of the tunnel started looking less like a beacon of hope and more like the headlight of a train coming to wreck their home and their lives. Sometimes, she would jump in the car and go for a “scream ride,” as she called it, just to let off steam.

No doubt we can all agree that 2020 was a very difficult year. Challenging situations are a part of life. The arrival of the pandemic presented an enormous challenge and still does.

But now we are in 2021. The question becomes: Will it be a happier new year? The answer is “yes,” if we decide that it will be. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we are far stronger and more resilient than we ever imagined. But that kind of power isn’t created by us or sustained by us. We get it through our connection to God, and we strengthen it through our connection to—and compassion for—others.

As Christians, if we take care of our neighbors, love one another, reprioritize our life to the things that really matter—God, family, friendship, community—we will discover that these priorities are sure to turn our happy new year wishes into a happier new year reality for all.

(David Bethuram is executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities. E-mail him at dbethuram@archindy.org.)

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