I spent last week in the house my great grandfather built when he immigrated to the United States from Sweden. He built the house on the land he farmed, the land my mother spent the majority of her life on and still lives on today. I spent the week with family and old friends, sharing stories, playing games, catching up and just enjoying being with each other.
This time of the year is always busy. We spend our time running from event to event, making sure we’re prepared for our holiday plans. Students are finishing finals and projects. Teachers are grading. People are working overtime. We are often in a rush to attend one event after another. We are trying to make sure we haven’t forgotten anything and in doing so sometimes forget everything.
We become so busy celebrating family that we forget to think about what we are celebrating, and why. As we enter December, I ask you to take some time and slow down and think about what it is that you truly believe in. Think about what changes you want to see in our world. I ask you to reflect on your families, your values, and your beliefs. Not what politicians, polls, or the media is asking you to believe, but what it is you believe about people and about the world.
A few months ago, Barb Harroun did a commentary on her belief in love and kindness. Barb’s commentary encouraged me to think about what it is I believe in. As I sit and reflect this holiday season, I find that what I believe in is hope. I believe in hope because I want to live in a world where we care about and learn from each other as people.
In the past few weeks as I listen to what’s going on in the news it is easy to become discouraged. Black boys continue to be killed in the streets. The recent death of Jamar Clark is nothing out of the ordinary. The possibility of the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act of 2015 (American SAFE Act) calls for United States to decide who we will open our boarders, hearts, and minds to in their time of need. Children and families in Syria, wanting refuge from a brutal civil war, are being denied comfort and possible freedom during a time of giving and compassion.
We are living in a time of fear. Fear that is causing people to be murdered. Fear that is encouraging us to reject people when they need us the most. Fear that encourages us to ignore our own history as a country as well as the histories of our families.
In a time of fear that cripples us and how we think about those around us, I have to believe that there is hope. Nelson Mandela said, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears” and today I want to reflect on hope. And, I encourage you to stop and reflect on what you believe as well.
I find hope throughout the world.
I find hope in the Twitter hashtag #PortOueverte where individuals connected with people stranded in Paris, hosting them in their time of need and the work of artist Jean Jullien whose symbol of peace in Paris started the hashtag #PeaceForParis.
I find hope in the work of Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors who started #BlackLivesMatter after the shooting of Treyvon Martin and who’s unending work to call for social justice and an end to patriarchy continues today.
I find hope in the visual protest work of photographer Adam Bouska and his partner Jeff Pashley who created the NOH8 Campaign promoting marriage, gender and human equality.
I find hope in United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth movement, full of Dreamers “building a movement of justice” and fighting to stay in the country they call home.
I also find hope in the everyday spaces where we live.
I find hope in a community who celebrates Pie Day.
I find hope in knowing that my children go to school and have teachers who care about them as people and as students.
I find hope when someone says thank you.
I find hope in people’s stories of resilience and resistance.
I find hope in writing, poems, midday naps, walks, my favorite movies, cupcakes, rain, and friends.
Where do you find hope? Take some time today to reflect on where there is hope in your world. Take some time out of your busy schedule just to slow down and enjoy. Learn the stories of others.
As we move into the holiday season and the new year, let’s work together to create a community of hope, not of fear.
Rebekah Buchanan is an Assistant Professor of English at Western Illinois University.
The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the University or Tri States Public Radio. Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.