I was blessed to grow up in a secure and loving and joyful family. I was blessed even more to have parents who felt called to care for and reach out to those with less. We always had foster children in our home. I learned at an early age that there were those who lived with violence, wondering where their next meal was coming from, without tenderness and compassion. I had a foster brother who was so glad finally to have arrived at his “forever family.”

Lest you think our family was wealthy, let me clarify that my parents would have qualified as lower-middle class. My father was a deliveryman, my mother an amazingly frugal homemaker. She rarely bought candy or sugar drinks or snacks. She fixed the toaster and the lawnmower, and we enjoyed helping in those projects. She and my father spent many hours a week giving to the church and community. They unbegrudgingly tithed their time and money.

I was challenged several years ago when I read that most American women are in the top 5 percent of women worldwide when it comes to economic and social advantage. We can read, choose our jobs and spouses, able to feed and house our children, have access to decent medical care and have some ability to buy things beyond the basics.

Our faith and the social sciences teach us that thankfulness and sharing bring deep joy and satisfaction. And the more we cultivate thankfulness, the more content we feel and want to reach out to others. It becomes a positive feedback cycle.

No matter our circumstances in life, we are called to give, to see every other person as a child of God, as a brother or sister in Christ. This in turn gives us a rich sense of belonging — to our local community as well as the bigger universe.

I have said it before: We yearn for connection and community, for something beyond our own little island. I have lived in several developing countries. The people there have a much better awareness than we of the importance of people, not things. Their joy is palpable.

Many of you give of both your time and treasure. I would like to challenge you to continue to give, give more and give of yourself — look around for the lonely and desolate, the suffering and beaten down. Reach out, ask, share.

Let me give you some examples of those who would benefit from your kindness:

  1. The young mother whose husband is a drug addict; she is working two jobs.
  2. The single, young woman, abused by a family member, so alone.
  3. All the “daddyless” children, who yearn for the strength and protection of a male figure.
  4. The children disappointed by a mother who has left them, who want a nurturing woman to relate to.
  5. The single father who is struggling with everything — to do his job, help with homework, get this child to his soccer game and the other one to her doctor’s appointment.
  6. The elderly sitting at home or in a facility, alone.
  7. The young mother of four, abandoned by husband and dad, trying to give them more love and security than she had.

May we be a thankful and giving people this season.


—Sharon Trani, a nurse practitioner, is a marriage and family therapist with Vermont Catholic Charities Inc.

—Originally published in the Winter 2022 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.