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When I began this work many years ago, I, like many other professionals, felt I had a lot to give and wanted to teach and support and help others. That part of this work was pretty much as I expected it to be, wonderful, challenging, frequently heart wrenching, but always incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. What I did not expect was to be exposed to and learn from some of the most remarkable people on this planet; foster parents, coworkers, and our youth themselves.

Foster parents are modern day saints. You have taught me the true essence of unconditional giving as you not only open your homes to children in need but you open your hearts and souls to them. I have learned patience from you as well as forgiveness and true acceptance of those who are different from me as I watched you work through some incredible situations in your fostering. I have a new appreciation of what it means to persevere and “hang in there” through the most challenging life events. And I have learned about sacrifice as you continually tolerate our intrusions into your lives and your homes and yet always welcome us.

What can I say about the people I work with? You hold me up, you inspire me, you amaze me and you teach me. One of the many lessons I have learned from you is what it means to be part of a team and how to depend on you while being there for you. It makes this work so much easier and makes me much more effective just knowing that I am part of such a remarkable group of people. You have held me up so many times it would take a novel to recount them all. Every single day I am amazed and inspired by all of you as I watch you spend endless amounts of time and energy to help people in need. You work long hours, you tolerate intolerable behavior from others, you suffer loss and pain along with those you support, you struggle with the imperfections of the system that make it harder to help those in need, and yet you never give up and rarely complain. How do I find adequate words to capture what that really means to me and to the community at large?

And last but certainly not least are the youth we have the privilege of serving. So often the focus is on how we help you. But you help and teach us invaluable lessons every minute of every day. You teach me what it means to be strong in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. You teach me every time you allow me to share in your successes and your failures. You have given me strength in the past when facing insurmountable odds and will inspire me to remain strong in the future when facing insurmountable odds. You are my role model for being and staying strong. You, like foster parents, remind me to persevere. So often when I watch you I am in awe of your ability to survive and “hang in there.” You constantly remind how important it is to be trustworthy and true to my word. As I watch you overcome amazing challenges you give me hope for our future.

This work is what I expected it to be in regard to my contributions to others. The wonderful surprise for me was in receiving so much in return from all of you. The lessons I have learned have become part of who I am and made me a stronger person both professionally and personally. So I want to take this time to thank all of you for all the gifts you continually give me, for all the gifts you give to our agency and the community in general, and most of all for allowing me to walk among some of the most remarkable people on this earth.

Thank you and have a wonderful holiday season.