Straight Talk: Hope Lives Among Us

By Fr. François Pizzarelli

It’s hard to believe another new year has begun. There is so much tension and turmoil in our American landscape that is infected with a new, highly contagious variant of COVID. Our essential workers continue to be our heroes as they quietly take longer hours and extra shifts to keep people safe and healthy. We are fortunate to have three amazing hospitals in our great community: St. Charles, Mather and Stony Brook University Hospital.

Our political landscape continues to be overwhelmed by hateful and divisive rhetoric that seems to be holding us back. It is this hate speech from both sides of the aisle that continues to infect and tear at the heart and soul of America. We need to elect leaders who will represent us and our issues in Washington, regardless of their political affiliation.

Our schools are failing at every level to motivate this generation to consider genuine government service and to help them believe that their voice matters; that their active participation in the political life of our country can and will make a difference.

Active engagement by every citizen will defeat the pharmaceutical industry, the insurance lobbyists and the gun lobbyists. Compromise and fairness will once again take center stage. We are a democracy, not an autocracy. Everyone’s vote and voice count. Race, religion, sexual orientation or social status should not influence how we view and support issues.

Our public discourse has lost its moral compass. The often vulgar and disrespectful too often, ad hominem attacks have nothing to do with the problem at hand. Social media should be a positive tool to bring us together, not a destructive weapon to demonize and destroy.

Despite this unsettling landscape as we begin a new year, there are powerful lights piercing the darkness.

Two young men from two different worlds on the brink of human destruction have reclaimed their lives; one was a high school dropout, the other a college dropout. Both have spent a lot of time living on the streets. Each man graduated in May with a master’s degree in social work from two different universities. Both decided to give back and take jobs as school social workers in different school districts. I asked them why? The two said, “I want to give back and maybe save someone else from walking down the wrong path.”

Probably the most emotional experience I’ve had this holiday season was when I met an eight-year-old girl named Celia. She came to her mother at the height of the pandemic and told her, “I want to do something for the homeless. This gave rise to “Celia Sews for Socks”. She made scrunchies and hair ties and sold them at a few local community events. She won $1,000 to buy socks for the most needy among us. She donated $700 worth of socks to Hope Academy in Mount Sinai and $300 worth of socks to Little Flower Children’s Services.

What a refreshing little girl who hasn’t been infected by all the craziness around us. She brought 10 bags of lovely socks for some of the most vulnerable among us living at Hope Academy. The men gave him a standing ovation!

“Celia Sews for Socks” is a refreshing reminder that we can do better and this New Year can be better. Celia, thank you for reminding me that hope lives among us!

Father Francis Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.