An unavoidable part of this particular holiday season is the need to survey the wreckage of last year, and the staggering damage we and our elected leaders have wrought on our lives and the lives of those less fortunate who live in our midst. Much of this is our own doing, reflecting our abiding faith in the power of egregious wealth and power to create and dispense additional wealth out of nothing — no making of things — no serving of others, just endless repackaging of wealth into new things to sell.
The Madoff collapse is a sad metaphor for the demise of our hollow economic belief system. But keep your perspective as you wander around and examine the wreckage. You have less, you are worth less in the domain of things that do not matter, but the wealth of nature around you is undiminished, the warmth of community persists and is now more important than ever.
You are alive. The cold is bracing and the land is still beautiful. Trout still stir below the ice. Deer hunker down in thickets of hemlock. Bobcats keep a keen eye out for field mice. Winter farmer’s markets offer root vegetables and preserves, artisan cheeses and crafts; all reflecting home, hearth and the skills of friends and neighbors. Bookstores, galleries and theaters remain rich with new ideas, images, drama, poetry and music.
Your family and friends will be with you or will remember themselves to you through the holidays. You will eat well, if less. You may give less and you may receive fewer things, but the unconditional love and kindness of family, friends and strangers will persist. Everything of importance remains. What’s gone is hardly worth mourning. We have again learned that we are not the center of the universe, that there are others wiser than we are — that “something for nothing” is usually nothing.
While we enjoy what’s left to us of importance, we must also be more attentive to those for whom the economic damage has left nothing. We must give away more of what is left to us, not less. That is community and community is why we are here.
We must take a moment to express our gratitude for the beauty and significance of what is left to us. We must seek out those who had nothing to start with or lost what little they had. We can do this by helping out local agencies that breathe life back into our communities. They do this vital work to make a living for themselves and to enhance the lives of others. Others volunteer. We must take what action we can now – and again after the warmth of our holidays has chilled into hard winter.
All too soon, we will forget the folly of our greed and begin again the pursuit. We will again believe the promise of something for nothing. But now let us take joy in what we have that is enduring and be sure that others find that same joy.