I was walking through the campus today when I saw one of our students who recently experienced a significant loss in his family, the death of a parent. He seemed to be dealing with it by withdrawing and giving himself space to mourn. It occurred to me how difficult it is to deal with such profound loss at Thanksgiving when you cannot help but feel the absence very deeply at the table where that person once sat; however, what better place to be, in spite of the sadness, than surrounded by those who care and indeed give thanks for memories that offer comfort.
All the happiness that is associated with the season does not necessarily provide any relief from the hardships that we face. Tragedy and disappointments can be great and devastating. Take, for example, the tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri unfolding now for several months or the shooting of the toy gun-wielding 12 year old in Cleveland this past week, let alone the senseless violence that is played out in neighborhoods every day here in Los Angeles. For those we serve at Hillsides, the personal tragedies they have experienced and the ubiquitous violence of our society have left them traumatized, disillusioned, and desperate to find hope.
Unattended, this kind of desperation and frustration can lead to self-harm and a cycle of devastation that is hard to stem. We see this in individuals and communities alike, overwhelmed by the seemingly arbitrary nature of suffering. It is precisely in this kind of a situation that someone must step in to acknowledge the loss, name the injustice, raise a voice of indignation, and pledge unwavering support until the hurt subsides and the anger abates.
On this Thanksgiving, let us give thanks for so many here at Hillsides who, over and over again, step into the pain and challenges experienced by those we serve and for their empathy, compassion, and resolve to bring about relief and comfort to one child at a time, one family at a time. Their presence does not take away the pain, but they make the process less onerous and offer reassurances that these children and families are not alone.
For all those who in so many ways support the work we do at Hillsides and who generously contribute to make a difference for all we serve, thank you! Know that your support, together with our efforts, allow those we serve to gather for Thanksgiving comforted, reassured, and on the way to being hopeful once again.