My fondest memories of the winter solstice were when my kids were young, and the cartoon Little Bear was popular. There was a winter solstice episode, and it was filled with love, family, food, joy, community, warmth, and the uplifting refrain, “Happy Winter Solstice!” It still makes me smile to think of it today.
Yet as I sit here tonight, surrounded by darkness after a day so short that I don’t even recall there being any light, I find myself empty, alone, and hopeless. Please don’t panic or call to check on me. I have been empty, alone, and hopeless for many years now. And I always get up. I always keep going. In fact, I somehow manage to function quite well, work multiple jobs, and help quite a few people. But on this particular solstice, after this particular week, enveloped by bone chilling cold and darkness, I know that it isn’t just me who feels empty, alone, and hopeless. In fact, it’s so much bigger than me.
It’s pervading the entire world.
Australia is on fire. So many forests have already been decimated by fire—in Brazil, in Indonesia, in Siberia, in Alaska. It is estimated that three regions–Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia–will generate 143 million more climate migrants by 2050 (brookings.edu). Yet we don’t care enough to address climate change.
The oceans have become just another place to dump our waste. 100,000 marine mammals die every year as a result of plastic pollution. One whale was found recently with 88 pounds of plastic in its stomach (www.wwf.org). Yet we don’t care enough to stop using plastic and clean up the oceans.
There are between 20 million and 40 million people in modern slavery today. Only about .04% survivors of human trafficking are ever identified. Most cases go undetected (dosomething.org). Yet we don’t care enough to do much about it, even when it is happening in our own back yard (which it is).
36,000 Americans are killed by guns each year—an average of 100 per day (lawcenter.giffords.org). Yet we don’t care enough to enact adequate gun control.
There are 70 million refugees in the world today. Every minute, 24 people are forced to flee their homes (care.org). Yet we don’t care enough to offer any of them refuge.
The US just impeached its president, a dangerous narcissist who lacks any sense of human decency whatsoever. Yet we don’t care enough to insist on a change in leadership. In fact, many of us won’t even vote.
I’m barely scratching the surface here.
I know. This is not an uplifting post. But if there has ever been a time that we need to collectively engage in reflection, it is now, on this darkest day.
I need to wake up tomorrow, when there will be a few more precious seconds of light, and take stock of my own existence. Despite the overwhelming personal challenges I have faced in recent years, some within my control and many beyond my control, I need to decide what I can change to bring more love, light, happiness, ease, and joy into my life. And then I need to take action to make it happen.
Collectively, we need to do the same. We need to decide what we can do to ease the burden of the planet and those most negatively impacted by our collective greed, hatred, and neglect. And then we need to take action to make it better.
We are all running out of time. The question becomes, what will we do with the precious time we have left, individually and collectively? How will we come together to make a positive difference so that regardless of how many hours of light we have left, we make the most of every minute?
Photos courtesy of Pixabay.