Each year in December the IDF team takes time to reflect back on the year that’s ending and plan for the coming year. This is usually a favorite time for all of us. For reasons both widespread and personal, this year leaves me with conflicted feelings. We are so uniquely blessed at IDF to interact with an amazing group of inspired, committed, and gifted activists working to combat problems and inequities around the world. At the same time, we also have a window into the mind-numbing depth and breadth of injustices that span the globe. We see remarkable examples of the best of humanity, but also the worst.

It has become increasingly clear as well that advancements both in the U.S. and around the world can’t be taken for granted. Things move forward, but they can also easily move backwards. Gender equality, racial equality, economic equality, and environmental justice—they are all at risk of getting worse instead of better. It’s also clear that no one has a corner on all the answers. All I need to do to be reminded of this is turn on the radio.

As I sit here writing this, I’m in the office of a local homeless program on a Saturday morning. I’m hearing one end of a long phone conversation with a staff person who’s supposed to be going home after an overnight shift. “You have an 8-month old daughter? You lost your job? You don’t have anywhere to stay? You are scared for your safety? We don’t have a place for you to stay here. Here are some numbers you can call that might be able to help.” Despair and hope. Ugly and beautiful. This staff person could shrug her shoulders, insulate herself from the pain on the other end of the line. She could hang up and go Christmas shopping. And maybe she will. But I know she will also show up on Monday and continue to help homeless families in Boston. I know this because I’ve seen it in you, our partners, over and over and over again doing work all over the world.

It can be easier to fall into despair, hopelessness, or avoidance than to lean in and work toward a better world. But if we do that, evil wins and justice loses. Our grantee partners see the inherent value, the creativity, the wisdom, the “imago Dei” in the “other”—the person at the other end of the phone, the displaced refugee, the woman suffering from fistula, the girl who wants to go to school instead of being forced into marriage, the farmer looking to get beyond subsistence living. They work hard because things are hard, they fight for justice because the world isn’t just.  For them, resignation to injustice is simply not an option.

We want to thank each of the more than 150 amazing grantee organizations that we have had the privilege to support in 2016. We are inspired by you, the work you are doing, and the people you serve.

In our work we are painfully aware that the problems out there are much bigger than we are, and that we can’t do everything. But we are also committed to doing what we can, what is ours to do in “acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God” (Micah 6:8).  We are committed to leaning in, to helping, to connecting, to listening and providing support. Let us know how we can help you and support you better.

I’m not making this up: an adorable, 3- or 4-year old girl who is living in this homeless shelter right now, is heading out to run errands with her mom. She just came up to me, held both my cheeks with her tiny mittened hands, said “goodbye beautiful!” and gave me a hug. And all morning I’ve been answering the door to receive Christmas gifts that generous people of goodwill have purchased for the families staying here. The “imago Dei” in action. I’m choosing hope.

Wishing you peace, hope and solidarity this holiday season,

Deb Veth, on behalf of the IDF team