by Chantal Bufe
2020 is coming to a close; there is still no definite end to the COVID pandemic in sight, and the emotional rollercoaster ride we have all involuntarily been part of continues. While the emergence of a new vaccine evokes hope, news of a new variant of the virus with greater transmissibility has the world holding its breath.
And as so often this year, I look at my three kids who - besides the occasional fit of boredom - are the lucky recipients of everything that makes up a happy childhood. And a merry Christmas, for that matter. They have enough food, a warm shelter, a caring family, and love. There is a Christmas tree and presents. And thanks to easy access to free Covid-19 testing, my children will most likely also spend Christmas day with their grandparents.
My heart fills with immense gratitude and relief when I see their carefree smiles. But my acknowledgment of their (our!) luck is always accompanied by the reminder that it is just that - luck. I am very aware of the painful truth, which is that the impact of this pandemic is not distributed equally, but that it correlates directly to the extent and range of economic and societal disruptions. Children who have previously been living in poor, disadvantaged, or vulnerable circumstances will suffer the most from this pandemic's harmful effects - physically and mentally. The amplification of their hardship is unfathomable to most of us. It is to me.
It is heartbreaking because child suffering due to poverty is not inevitable (as Pope Francis reminded us in the fall of 2019); there are chances to combat poverty with the right efforts. But while all children deserve a voice, only those who receive physical and mental protection and access to education (i.e., those who will not die in childhood or risk being deprived or excluded) will get the chance to be heard.
So with two days until Christmas (or whenever you will be ready this!), here is my gentle plea to you: as you acknowledge the many blessings among the hardships that you had to face this year, extend whatever you can to those who are in greater need than you. From donations to care packages, from kind gestures to loving words.
No matter how small, any positive action will have an impact and, in the best case, a ripple effect....
And let's include our children in this process so that they acknowledge their fortune, take steps to contribute as participants of this world, and grow up to be compassionate, caring, and kind sons and daughters, partners and friends, neighbors, and co-workers.