As I sit down to write this, I am just coming back from vacation—rested and ready to face the coming autumn. Another summer is coming to an end.
I know these are rituals that many of us share. Whether your vacation is relaxing days at the beach or strenuous hikes in the mountains or stimulating trips to museums and cultural attractions, it is always welcome as a respite, a time to renew and recharge, to get some perspective on your day-to-day life before you return to its familiar rhythms.
When you work at Catholic Relief Services, it is often returning to work that grants you perspective. For many of our employees, getting back to work does not mean returning to a cubicle and a desk. It means a journey back to a faraway land to live with people in need.
For those of us who do face a desk on our return, its inevitable clutter is filled with reminders of the importance of the work that we are so privileged to do, that you have the grace to let us do. We are so grateful that you answer the Gospel’s call to help our poor brothers and sisters, wherever they may be.
The perspective comes when we see that so many of the parts of our lives that we accept as normal are actually far from that. When we return to work, we realize that, in fact, very, very, very few people on our planet are privileged enough to take vacations.
That is a luxury far out of the reach of a subsistence farmer in Burkina Faso who is trying to eke enough food out of the drought-parched ground. It will be a long time before the idea of a vacation crosses the minds of refugees from the war in Syria who are crowded into camps or sleeping on the couches of generous friends and relatives in neighboring countries. No vacations are awaiting thousands of Somalis in Dadaab, young girls rescued from sex trafficking in India, and many more who face poverty and want every day of their lives.
You may now be seeing frowns on the faces of your children as the school year begins, when they must return to days of early morning alarm clocks and late-night homework. But we can only think of the children in Ethiopia who would so like to go to school instead of spending their days fetching water from a far-off stream so their family can drink, eat and bathe. Or the girls in Afghanistan who would go to school if it were not so far away, farther than their parents would ever let a girl walk. Or the children in Zambia who would rather be in school instead of trying to find a way to feed and clothe their younger siblings—now that the epidemic of HIV and AIDS has left them as the heads of their households.
These are the people you help every day through CRS. Maybe they never will have a vacation as we know it: walk on the beach, swim in the ocean, climb mountains, see the sights. But with your help, their burden will be easier. They will have an opportunity to experience the kind of refreshment and nourishment that your vacation brings to you.
And because of your support, more and more of their children are able to go to school, to let their minds grow, their possibilities unfold, their lives become full and fulfilled.
This is what your faith and commitment and solidarity make possible. And all of us who work at CRS can only thank you for allowing us to have this privilege to serve.
May blessings overflow,
Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
President & CEO
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