Peace On Earth

Peace On Earth

White LED lights of a multi-pronged snowflake star, and small lights on the branches of tall tree, lit for the annual celebration in the neighborhood.
Can there still be magic in the air around the holidays, in the midst of violence, pain, and tragedy? Photo by Imei Hsu, taken with an iPhone 5s. Dec. 5, 2015. Use by permission only.

As I walked around the neighborhood all lit up with holiday lights in the trees and buildings, I tried to feel the magic of the winter season. Rain was coming down steadily, yet the people who had gathered for the town’s lighting of the tree were prepared with rain ponchos, coats, and large poke-you-in-the-eye bumbershoots and umbrellas. The voices of young children singing a Hanukah classic, The Dredel song, lifted into the evening air, and the spotlights waved steadily for everyone to feel the cheer of yet another bigger, better, LED light-filled celebration. It truly was bigger than last year.

I tried to feel the magic. I really did. All I could think about was that horrible statistic that we are all saying we are sick of:  there has been more mass shootings in the U.S. than there are days in a single year (depending on how you count them, but one is one to many). Children are killing children. People are entering public buildings with semi-automatic rifles and killing people in combinations of random and/or highly planned acts of violence.

Usually every December, I’ve tried to write a blog post about the season from the perspective of this therapist who’s main task is to help hurting individuals, couples, and families heal and learn to make the best possible decisions they can for themselves and the people they love. This post is really no different, just with less words and no how-to’s.

The only magic I could get in touch with that night at the lighting festival was through the eyes of children. They are the ones who know next to nothing about what is going on in our country, let alone our world. They are being shielded for now, and rightly so, from graphic images and language that detail the hurts in this world: racism and bigotry, bullying, terrorism, the suffering of refugees, mass bombings, greed and selfishness, and yes, even the callous acts of millions who allow the eroding of our planet’s natural resources to slip away, one glacier at a time.

Those little eyes were glowing as children ran along the lighted path, listening to bagpipers and drummers, watching bell choirs ring music through their arm movements, and fire dancers and flame throwers lighting up the air. No matter their race, gender, religion, or economic background, they were children at play.

This past week, I had observed the reaction of friends, strangers, and fellow city dwellers talk about the news from Paris to Syria, to San Bernardino to China. There is a palpable, heaviness to these conversations, and no matter what part of the gun debate you might be on,  your personal views on global warming, or whether our country is capable of expediting the relocation of Syrian refugees, there is one thing we all want, one thing that binds all these conversations.

We do long for peace. We just understand that it doesn’t come by magic, by wishes, nor by prayer unaccompanied by action. We want peace, and we understand it will come with a price. 

Most things that we should ever want in this life come with a sacrifice, which is probably why so many of us — myself included! — are so very fascinated by studying, appreciating, and memorializing the sacrifices of others.

As I long for peace, I understand that that peace comes with a cost, to myself and each person who longs for it as well. As I watched dancer after dancer on the Bollywood stage in the Town Center entertaining the crowds, who were made up of humans who for one moment did not think it strange at all, yet rather delightful, that we were dancing and clapping to music from thousands of miles away, I was sincerely delighted. I was hopeful that we might experience this again and again, just like this. 

The same children who were watching the dance show would later join each other on the short train ride around the outdoor mall, have henna drawn on their hands, and hold those hands as they skated around the makeshift “ice rink”. Young and old alike would ooh and ahh at the artist who sculpted ice with a chainsaw and a power drill. All of us felt something for the small boys who took off their shoes and stood on cold and wet brick before stepping on the stage to dance to the beat of bhangra drums.

This cost us something. It cost us change. It cost us flexibility and openness. It cost us our past hate and bias. It asked us to risk by trusting. And it rewarded us with this moment of peace and beauty.

It was a good thing it was dark and raining, so no one could see that I was crying out of joy. It’s such a small, quiet thing.

Peace on Earth.

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As reminder, the Seattle Direct Counseling office will be closed from Dec. 24  2015 through Jan. 3 2016. If you are a current client, you will be given instructions on how to seek emergency or crisis-oriented care should you need it. If you are wishing to schedule sessions in January as a new client, please contact us directly before the office closes for the year.

No matter how you celebrate the end of the year — Ramadan, Rosh Hoshana and Hanukah, Christmas, Winter Solstice,  and New Year’s Eve — Allie and I  wish you a happy, healthy holiday time!

 

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