What matters now
in these dimmer days
when gloom and doom
conversations occupy the tables
in every corner of concern?…(From: What Matters Now by Minx Boren)
It is the “season of sharing” and the “season of hope.” Hope for peace and a better future. Yet, I find myself, like many of those around me experiencing these as days of “gloom and doom.” This year of blame, name calling, fabricated lies and divisiveness is coming to an end. I would like to feel optimistic and confident about next year, about our future. But it is hard.
Heritage of Generosity, Sharing
In the research for my novel based on the lives of my grandparents, the grit and determination of the pioneer homesteaders inspired me. Imagine living in lonely isolation on the prairie, daring to find hope, support and community. In my opinion, they lived values of generosity and sharing, even among those with very little themselves like my grandparents. Giving to those most needy was a common practice. For homesteaders who often lived miles from their nearest neighbors, Christmas was a time of sharing and gathering in community. I imagine my grandparents and their children dressed in their “Sunday best” traveling by horse and wagon or by sleigh to visit with neighbors. Perhaps they gathered at the small community church to meet for religious services, share potluck meals and sing carols around a piano or accompanied by a guitar or a banjo.
This is our heritage of the “season of sharing,” remembering those less fortunate and sharing what we have in community. In the analysis of the election results, we are hearing that the messages which tapped into hunger and nostalgia for our past were successful. Minx Boren captures some of the longing in the next stanza of her poem…
What counts now
when countless folk
feel harried and hungry
for the richness of more
when gold stars of hope
are needed to illuminate
their heavens and give weight to
their wishes?…(From: What Matters Now by Minx Boren)
Unfortunately, that nostalgia reflected in the election results is for a past where the “richness of more fulfilling times” offered narrow benefits primarily to the privileged who were mostly white and male. Many of us do not want to return to that past. We believe in the advancement of our human rights and we appreciate our health care and our creature comforts. I harbor no nostalgia for my grandparents’ life in an underground dugout, traveling by horse and wagon and suffering illness and the early death of loved ones.
However, I do find myself longing for the prairie heritage of community, willingness to share and to offer freely given support to those in need. That heritage contrasts with individualism, meanness and greed. I fear that it becomes the “season of taking back.” Looking for the “gold stars of hope,” described in Boren’s poem, is very challenging as I listen to the pronouncements of our new President and the appointments he is making to his cabinet.
Taking it Back and Backwards
He is taking back hope, dreams, protection, human rights and probably jobs, too. This picture of the future discourages and dismays many of us. However, I believe that we must not succumb to numbness, depression and despair that will keep us from envisioning the opportunities of what a brighter future could be. We must not normalize greed, meanness and bigotry. I want a future that requires us to get involved, take action, build community, and keep the vulnerable safe. Furthermore, I want people to speak up for individual rights and in the spirit of giving, be as generous of heart, soul and material goods as we can be. Boren says it well.
What matters and what counts
are imagination and inspiration…
and a roll up our sleeves movement
of such magnitude that the future
can hear us coming
with our heads held high
above the cloudy predictions
and our knap sacks filled with
our gumption and our grit
our gifts and our gratitudes –
the building blocks of new
cornerstones of possibility.(From: What Matters Now by Minx Boren)