I always have mixed emotions as we approach the end of December. As usual, I’m ready to wave goodbye to the preceding year -good riddance!- but also sad about how quickly the time has passed. I’m excited about the coming year, but worried about all of the unknowns of the future. I’m a little alarmed at the number of years that I’ve already left behind (OK, more than a little alarmed), but grateful to be here to look forward to many more.
Frankly, the passing from the old year to the new one feels a little arbitrary. After all, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are separated by a millisecond. I don’t know that life changes radically between December 31 and January 1, but I do know that humans seem to need calendars and clocks and holidays to mark our history and the passing of time.
My husband and I marked our own significant milestone this year; we have officially become empty-nesters. Our children are out of the house, and it looks like they’re really gone for good. They are acquiring the trappings of adult life: jobs, apartments, bills, vacations, new lives in new communities. They are talented and resourceful, resilient in the face of challenges; kind, thoughtful and articulate. They are becoming the people that we always hoped they would be, and they are happy to be out from under the watchful eyes of their parents.
In theory, I’m delighted to see them spread their wings and soar. In reality, my feelings are decidedly mixed. I know that I’m not the first parent to look back and wonder how life could have moved so quickly, or to wish that I could turn back the pages on the calendar for just a brief moment. But I do occasionally wonder how the heck we got to this place and this time.
My time with Episcopal Relief & Development has also flashed by. Twelve years (but who’s counting?). It’s hard to believe how much we have changed as an organization in that time. We’ve passed some pretty hefty milestones of our own. When I started in 2004, there were about 15 people on staff; we worked in 21 countries and our programs reached about 250,000 people. Today we have over 50 staff on three continents. We work with partners in nearly 40 countries. With our partners we reach close to 3 million people each year. And with the ongoing support of Episcopalians, we’re able to mark over 75 years of healing a hurting world. What other changes will the new year bring?
Unfortunately, some things will not change - not in the near future. We work with communities to fight poverty, hunger and disease because poverty, hunger and disease still affect millions of our sisters and brothers. We help our partners prepare for and respond to disasters – because disasters can happen anytime, anywhere.
But we also know that communities can become more resilient, that disaster risk can be reduced, that programs that are locally developed and led are sustainable and effective. And we know that, all over the world, communities work hard to help their children be happy and healthy, become resourceful and resilient, to grow up to be the people their families hope they will be. I look forward to the work that we will all do together to heal a hurting world.
Happy New Year to you and yours, to our partners and their communities, to our staff and generous supporters. I wish for all of you - for all of us - a new year of hope, change, hard work, growth, and of gratitude.
Esther Cohen is the Chief Operating Officer for Episcopal Relief & Development.
Images: Top: New Year's Baby; Middle 1: Children pratice literacy; Middle 2: Young happy boy excited to have his photo taken; Middle 3: Instructor engaged in a session; Middle 4: Woman participating in financial workshop.