I was thinking, this morning, about 2016. I’d rather not, anymore, but given it’s largeness and also, still, its recentness, I’m not sure any of us can escape it quite yet.
A comment on my last post got me thinking about how a year cannot be all good or all bad. Before the holidays, a friend and I talked about how coloring the year with one big horrible brush is a little unfair. She talked of good memories made with family and deepened relationships as a result. I had the same last year – good family memories and deepened relationships too. It wouldn’t be fair to look back on the year and not hold onto those moments and experiences that made it particularly sweet.
I began to think, then, that what really left us so despondent is that 2016 extinguished hope.
Some of the world’s greatest geniuses left us last year, taking with them the hope they gave us in life with the songs they sang, the stories they told, the way they made us feel.
Horrific wars, terrorism, and all-out attacks on humanity decimated the hope we’ve always tried to keep that there is good in the world, that there are good people, that the world is a safe and welcoming and beautiful place to explore.
Hatred and anger erupted in ways that shattered our hearts and I, for one, lost hope that we will ever be able to slow the boil to a more even-tempored, measured place.
And, of course, we replaced a man who spoke as a symbol of hope with one who inspires everything that is hope’s antithesis. Every time I see an image of the Obamas or hear their words, I still feel the glow of good people working hard for good things. Every time I see our current president-elect or hear his words (aka read his tweets?) I feel despair.
But how long can we keep going without hope? And, if the answer is, ‘not too long,’ what can we do to build it back up?
In my New Year’s post I called hope in this moment misleading and passive. Simply feeling hopeful is not enough. Just hoping that everything will work out isn’t working for me. I think, this year, we need to build hope back up through action. We need to show up for what we’ve always hoped will be and show hope that we’re ready to commit.
How exactly do we do that? I’ll be honest and say I don’t really know for sure. But I think it’s likely scattered across a million small ways and a few big leaps. It’s probably found, in part, by pursing meaning over happiness. By not only staying true to who you are and what you believe but fighting for those things too. It’s in putting your time and your money where your heart is by supporting the good fight. On New Years day, the four of us here in my little family each chose a cause we cared about. Then we started the year by making donations to the World Wildlife Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the ACLU, and UNICEF. They weren’t large sums but they were commitments on day one that we’re in this to make a difference. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I’ll take my kids to volunteer and follow Dr. King’s example through service. We won’t change the world, but our action will put a little good into it. There’s nothing wrong with starting small. It’s far better than not starting at all.
And maybe as the year goes on and the million little actions and few larger leaps build up, we’ll start to feel the difference.