A response to despair is thankfulness. Thankfulness for rich memories, for experiences that can’t be taken away, for the gift of crossing paths with others in unexpected and soul expanding ways. When the news veers from the horrific to the heart-rending, helplessness is an understandable feeling. But I choose something stronger than defeat. I choose thankfulness. Cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead’s wise words come to mind: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the word. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Small groups of thoughtful, committed citizens abound. I see them in the PTFA groups who organise movie nights, school fetes, raffles, etc to help improve the school atmospheres and provide so many uncountable extras. I see them in people raising money and collecting donations for charities and causes farther afield. I see them in the members of my orchestra who come together to share music and remind ourselves as well as our listeners of the great beauty and achievements of art. They pop-up in on-line communities that form and reform around topics that people are passionate about, or in the writing groups I participate in and facilitate. I see them when I visit a place where I may not speak the language, but I need no translations to understand interactions of kindness and trust. They are the living forms of the celebrations of light and faith that so many traditions observe during the winter months. They are the nodes of communities: neighbourhood gatherings, church groups, knitting circles, community sports teams, book clubs, friendships carried through decades and across distances. Wherever there is a genuine connection in which people see each other, create conversation and share small bits of understanding, I believe there is good work being done, change is being made for the better.
When sadness lingers at the edges of the newspaper or the day, I find it a balm to stop and look for these small groups of thoughtful, committed citizens, carrying on with their important and humble work. I am thankful for all the ways they replenish our humanity.