By Denise Seibert Townsend
An integral component of our Neighbor To Neighbor* program is the blessings-and-concerns portion that occurs at the beginning of each class. As a group, participants share their blessings – those aspects of their lives they are grateful and thankful for. They also share their concerns – those things that worry and trouble them. This time is one of my favorite aspects of the class. I appreciate the opportunity to witness how this process can unite the participants and help them understand that we can find blessings even in some of our most challenging moments.
It can be easy to feel close to God in our best moments – when things go well, when we have occasions to celebrate or feel connected to people around us who uplift us. Some of the blessings shared at a recent Neighbor to Neighbor class included starting a new job, moving into a house after spending several months living in a homeless shelter, a favorable health report and other life moments that are easy to appreciate.
The concerns shared by these Neighbor to Neighbor participants, however, were not as easy to hear. Concerns included worries about a child struggling in school, an overdue bill, a challenging health issue, and grief and sadness from the death of a loved one. In our challenging moments – when we are lonely, sick, overwhelmed or scared – we might feel distanced from God. However, God makes it clear to us that, in these moments when we feel weak, He can be our source of strength, gently guiding us toward peace. When thinking about these concerns in life, may we be reminded to also think about our blessings.
Proverbs 3:5-8 reminds us to remain faithful and trust in God:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely; In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and turn away from evil; This will mean health for your flesh and vigor for your bones.”
Most, if not all, of us have concerns at some point in our lives – and others in our community may be facing concerns that are difficult for us to imagine as they are challenged by poverty, mental-health needs and more. Through our work at Catholic Charities, we strive to provide hope and support to those facing these unexpected challenges. My hope is that, when individuals experiencing challenges work with our team at Catholic Charities, they may see our support and assistance to be blessings.
*Neighbor to Neighbor is a faith-based, life-skills-education program that helps families move away from financial dependence on social service agencies and move towards self-sufficiency. Facilitators guide participants as they set goals to move forward and learn to make positive, healthy, and financially wise choices. Upon successful completion, participants earn assistance with rent, utilities or other appropriate expenses.
Catholic Charities provides outpatient mental health counseling, job and life skills training, low-cost immigration legal services, and financial assistance programs. The goals of these services are to improve mental health, reduce poverty and improve self-sufficiency for individuals and families we serve.