This is the second post from Brooke Broussard, our guest blogger for December. Brooke is a St. Catherine’s parishioner who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her family attends Session E.
“It is surely justice to share our natural gifts.”
St. Catherine of Siena
This weekend, my 3rd grader worked on a chapter for his Family Faith session that discussed three different ways people can serve and share with others- by sharing time, talent, or treasure. Some people have all three in abundance, while others have one or two, but everyone has something to offer others. Here are some ways that you can use your time, talent or treasure to undo racism and support social justice in our community this Advent season and in the New Year:
- Be “Santa” for a Family In Need. Nearly 1 in 4 children in Texas live in poverty, and nearly 1 in 4 families of color in Texas live in poverty. The Austin Police Department sponsors Operation Blue Santa to provide gifts for families in need for the holidays. Right now, all families have already been adopted for this holiday season, but APD is still accepting toys at drop off locations. Visit www.bluesanta.org to read about the program and local toy drop off sites.
- Change the Way You Talk About Santa in your Family. Speaking of Santa, the idea in our culture that Santa gives “good children” nearly anything they want can be confusing and hurtful to children living in poverty, or who have families struggling with unexpected medical issues, job loss, or other strife. This can be especially confusing for children who enter the foster care system and may experience a Christmas tradition completely unlike Christmases that they’ve experienced in the past. If you have young children, consider using your story-telling talents to teach them that Santa fills their stocking and brings them one gift, and that all other gifts under the tree come from mom and dad or other loved ones. Talk to your friends and family about the “Santa myth” and how that may affect children in our community. Ask your friends and family what they teach their child about Santa, and encourage them to flip the narrative to a story that can be shared with the 1 in 4 children in our community that are living in poverty. We hear a lot about putting the “Christ” in Christmas, and changing the way we talk about Santa to our children can be a part of it.
- Support Children in Foster Care. The Texas foster care system is in crisis!! There are not enough families willing to provide a loving home, either temporarily or permanently, for children who are victims of abuse or neglect and there are not enough organizations meeting the needs of these children and their families. The need is especially great for older children with special needs. Over 70% of children in the Texas foster care system are children of color, and the majority of children in foster care come from low-income families. There are many ways you can serve the foster care system- from adoption to becoming a licensed foster (long-term) or respite (short-term) care provider, to becoming a foster care babysitter or Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), to donating your time, treasure or talent to one of the many agencies providing services to children (providing sports or music lessons, birthday parties, therapy or other needs). The Travis County Collaborative for Children (TCCC) has created a centralized website for people wanting to help the Texas foster care system by connecting them with organizations that could use their help. Visit www.fostercommunity.org to learn more.
- Support Public Schools. Texas public schools are in crisis!! Teachers use their own money to purchase needs for their classroom, and many of the public schools in Travis County do not even have textbooks for their students! Over 70% of Texas public school students are children of color and nearly 60% of Texas public school students are economically disadvantaged. To donate monetarily, visit www.donorschoose.org to find local teachers that need supplies for their students. To donate your time and talent, contact Communities in Schools of Central Texas, Junior Achievement of Central Texas or Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Central Texas to learn how you can provide enrichment activities or mentorship to public school students. If you have a special love or talent, like theatre, playing an instrument, or another hobby, consider volunteering to teach a class or host an after school program at your local public school.
- Pray for Racial Healing, Forgiveness and Social Justice. Pray for racial healing, forgiveness and social justice and encourage prayer groups to do the same.
As St. Catherine said, "it is justice to share our natural gifts," whether those gifts are our time, our talents or our treasure. Sharing is an especially important part of the Christmas season. Dan Rather recently wrote a very moving story about his experience growing up during the Great Depression and how he and his neighbors worked together to ensure that a family going through a tough time would have presents under the tree. An important lesson that he learned from his mother is that service is not done because we feel sorry for people- it is because we understand how they feel. We understand the role that luck plays in our good fortune, and that it is our duty to share with our fellow neighbors- To love one another as Jesus loved us, and to build the Kingdom of God with our hands, our words and our hearts.