In small ways, each of our lives touches so many other lives


My family will tell you that one of my favorite movies is “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Every time I watch it I shed a joyful tear thinking about the gift that each of us is to others. Though I do not daily live up to that great expectation, I remind myself that the small acts we do every day impact our neighbors, our community and our world. From recycling that bottle, holding the door for parents with their arms full, allowing a senior to take the seat on the bus, or listening when a friend needs five more minutes — even though your to-do list is long, these acts make our world kinder and better. We need that now more than ever. Kindness is something we can all give during the Christmas season.

This Christmas I’m thinking about “It’s a Wonderful Life” a little early, especially the quote, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives.” Our acts touch many lives. A story I heard here at Catholic Social Services recently crystallized that for me.

One of our housing case managers went to a medical appointment. She checked in and began chatting with the woman at the front desk. Our case manager mentioned in passing what her job was, and the woman stopped. She said that Catholic Social Services had changed her life.

Six years ago she was our client. She is a U.S. veteran and had hit challenging times. She did not have a place to live or a job and had lost hope. Then she found CSS and worked with one of our housing case managers, Pam. Together they walked through some difficult times. With support, she got back on her feet, started a job and moved into an apartment. Now, she and her partner are still in that same apartment, and she is working and saving money. She is also pregnant and excited to become a parent. She said Catholic Social Services restored her hope.

This story reminds me of the connection we all have, and of the special work our staff at Catholic Social Services does with our brothers and sisters in the community. So often that work happens when our client is in crisis and at their lowest point. I have seen how the support of our trained case managers, our front-line staff at our shelters, our pregnancy support specialists, our refugee resettlement staff, and all our team at CSS transform our clients’ outlook and give them hope. Our mission is to restore that hope for our community by supporting those in greatest need. Each of us can provide that hope to others. We have opportunities in small acts of kindness every day. We can support the work of helpers in our community, like the staff at Catholic Social Services.

This Christmas I will ring a bell of hope every day of the month to honor the blessing of the season and the gift of each person in our community and our world. I’ll be thinking of the U.S. veteran that Pam helped house six years ago and praying for her baby, who will be born into a safe and stable home, thanks to the hard work of the parents and the support of Pam. I invite you to explore our website ( for ways to share the blessings of Christmas with those in poverty. I offer my thanks as the recipient of so many of your acts of kindness and love, and I wish you all the blessings of the season.

The writer is executive director of Catholic Social Services in Alaska. For more on CSS, call 222-7300 or visit

'In small ways, each of our lives touches so many other lives'
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