The new year is a once-a-year opportunity to share our endings and new beginnings with so many others at the same time -- whether in-person or virtually. For many of us at this moment in time, however, saying goodbye to 2016 also includes a little, if not a lot, of trepidation about the coming year.
I was blessed to spend this New Year's Eve with extended family who I dearly love. As we sat around the dinner table for several hours in animated conversation, thoughts and concerns about the near future of our country -- and thus our own interests, passions and livelihoods -- emerged. The beauty of our little company last night was that as we shared our fears and disappointments, we were also exploring different perspectives with each other for greater understanding. While it may seem that the ideals of our country's founders, and the "higher angels" of our personal strivings for love, compassion and "goodness" are being trampled upon -- there are other, bigger-picture ways to look at what is happening in our country and our world. For example, that there is a gift of opportunity in EVERY happening. And that bad acts have a shorter shelf life when we meet them with love and understanding. And that hurts which have been too long ignored, pushed down and buried eventually must come to the surface so that they can be addressed and healed. For we cannot fulfill our utmost potentials as individuals, communities and nations until they are.
You would think that my goddaughter, who is graduating from Amherst this Spring with credentials, experience and an upcoming Fulbright Scholarship for climate change research, would be especially concerned. And so she is -- but she also sees the sudden climactic change of government in our country as an opportunity to work at local ground-root levels by educating ourselves and our neighbors about simple, doable Earth-and-humanity-friendly initiatives and committing to actions that can improve not only a seemingly far-off future, but our present daily quality of life.
There is a comfort in our personal strivings and even seeming setbacks at times to feel that we live in a community or country where our ideals, dreams and desires always have second chances. But when we cannot look to our governments and institutions to uphold our ideals or address our most basic needs, then we must certainly look to ourselves. If "they" are not going to hold our light, then we the people, as collective individuals, must hold it for ourselves, our children and our neighbors near and far. In the willingness to be accountable to our personal values and ideals, we can create change that will enable all of us -- not just a few -- to not only survive, but even thrive. Love, compassion and creativity, after all, are not creations of a government, but of the human heart.
And so, as we enjoyed a delicious vegan cheesecake ("the best I've ever had," the non-cheesecake lover among us remarked), we talked about the common urges we've all been having recently for "random acts of kindness," as the patriarch of the family called it. Kindness. Both the giving and receiving of it. There is probably nothing that dissolves our fear, resentment or attitudes more quickly and sweetly than kindness. Kindness has no ideologies -- it is simply an emergence of heart. And as we talked about the challenges of civic education, especially in an environment when facts often seem to be overcome by emotionally clung-to fictions, I recalled something that was given to me inwardly and is an ongoing powerful life lesson for me: "whatever truth we may think needs telling, what wants to be heard is love."
Love is the best education, and it has the power to transform anger, resentment and even willful ignorance. CNN journalist Van Jones recently traveled the country talking with people who were "tired of being unheard and ignored." Not only tired, but angry -- and other things that are sometimes hard to fathom. Their votes brought about a radical change in our upcoming government that upset so many others of us in ways that we have not felt in our lifetimes. But our best defense and offense, Jones concluded, is not to fire back our own brands of arrogance, anger, resentment and hate, but rather to create a "love army." For love is the only force that truly unites.
In the space between endings and new beginnings are always moments for greater-seeing of ourselves and each other. We are each a seed of humanity. Who we are is what the world becomes. And if we don't like what our world has become, then we must cultivate better seeds of ourselves. It all starts with a softening of heart -- and a choice to be a seed for something love-and-life-affirming in the encounters, events and interactions of this day, our daily bread. And especially, we must do work we love, or come to love the work we do. For in all our strivings, if we bring to the world what we love, then surely the world will be more loving.
I wish for myself and each of you that our harvests in 2017 and beyond may be not just the crumbs of life's potential, but the whole loaf!
Lover of words & music, mountains and meaning, good friends and food, co-creative talk, travel and timelessness!
Words are like gates. They can open us to each other's hearts and minds and show us those sacred places we can only go without them.
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