By the end of the holiday season I have a stack of books to take me into January. The other night I chose a book from the stack, ran a bath, settled into the bubbles and cracked the spine of a new novel. Bliss!
Each time I begin a book, I wonder what world I will fall into and who I will meet on this journey of a few hundred pages. I adore meeting new characters and look forward to returning to them each evening. I love escaping reality and getting lost in the pages.
Perhaps Stephen King says it best: “Books are uniquely portable magic.”
As I have watched the world news over the last few months, feelings of anger, disbelief and a profound sadness quickly surface: an incredulity at where we find ourselves in society. There has been a recent shift from thoughtful, eloquent and inspiring to reactionary, rash and rude. As a lover of words, I have found this more than a little disturbing.
On Saturday – for the first time in many months – I watched the news and felt strengthened by humanity. I saw hope in the unity of people across the world.
We teach our students not to be bullies. We also teach them not to be bystanders when they see an injustice. To do something. To say something. Yesterday, more than a million people worldwide showed they will not be bystanders. They will not tolerate racism, bigotry or an abuse of power. They will stand together for what is right and just. I stand with them.
Whether the bully is 9 or 70, we cannot be bystanders. Words are powerful. Theirs and ours. I will use mine to defend those without a voice. I will use mine to show solidarity to all those who find themselves on the receiving end of intolerance and abuse. I will use mine to echo those of Martin Luther King Jr: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Where do you stand?
Last week I met a family who recently moved from El Salvador. When I met them, the temperature was minus thirty.
I tried to put myself in their shoes: in a new country and culture, not knowing the language, away from all things familiar, in frigid temperatures previously unimaginable.
I wonder if they question why we live here. I’m sure many people do. Yet even in extreme cold, we still function: schools stay open, busses run. In fact, in the midst of the cold spell last week I saw a man out jogging.
And as much as I welcome a warm holiday now and then, I am always happy to return. I appreciate the four seasons and the changes they bring throughout the year. Today, my walk with the pooch was especially enjoyable with the considerably warmer temperatures. Perspective is everything.
Too often the world news is both heartbreaking and discouraging. Yet the holiday season inspires me with good news stories: communities coming together to prepare Christmas meals for the homeless, school children making and delivering Christmas cards to seniors, the restaurant in Montreal with a sign indicating that even if you cannot pay, you can still eat.
I believe that all people deserve dignity and respect despite their circumstance. I believe in the goodness of humanity. Most importantly, I believe that each of us can make a difference.
In the words of Pope Francis: “To change the world we must be good to those who cannot repay us.”