Despite the pandemic, unemployment, food insecurity, racial and political strife, and grief, we do not stand apart from one other. In this year of disconnection, we have found a way to connect, says CHANA MEDDIN
Seattle before the winter solstice is dark, rainy and gloomy even in the best of times. But these aren’t the best of times. Perhaps for that reason, people in my neighbourhood have gone all out with their Christmas and holiday decorations and it’s astonishing to behold! The light, colour, whimsy and extreme efforts people have gone through, bringing light to dispel darkness is faith-restoring.
The first night of Chanukah (Hanukkah), I fell asleep in the afternoon and didn’t wake up until the next day. So, no candles got lit and the menorah wasn’t placed in my own window as if to signal to passersby: I see you and have put out a light for you. That is how I feel walking by my neighbours’ homes in the darkness. A reaching out. As if the effort wasn’t just for the family living in each home, but to say: we see you and yes, these lights are for you.
You who go by are not a stranger to me. You are suffering the same fears and anxieties we all are, perhaps you are even grieving the loss of a loved one. These lights are for you. A reaching out in friendliness and faith during the dark, gloomy nights amidst a lockdown that prevents us from visiting loved ones this holiday season.
A recent article in The Seattle Times is actually titled, “Washingtonians are among the most likely to go over the top with decorations for 2020’s pandemic holiday season. Here’s why.” Photographs of homes decorated in lights depicting Santas, elves, snowmen and processions of jolly, marching animals illustrate the story. Over the top? In any other year, perhaps. Not this one.
Families here are struggling. So much remains unknown. People are hurting. The vaccine may have arrived but today marked a milestone of 300,000 dead and hospitals beyond capacity. Perhaps this is the darkness before the dawn. And gathering together, the one thing that could bring us the most connection and comfort, is too dangerous. We just can’t risk it.
Yet, my neighbours have found a way to proclaim victory, emblazoning the night with one common message, “We not only endure. There will be joy! We are keeping the faith.” These devastating times have not, nor can they, break us. We are here. We may be ensconced within our own homes but oh, look up! You can walk in the dark, rainy night and we will light the way for you with snowmen, Santas, elves, reindeer and gleaming stars! Our homes say we believe. And we see you. We know you hurt, too. And you are not alone.
At least this is how I feel. There have been a few decked out Nativity scenes of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus. But most of the decorations are secular, singularly festive and adorably silly. They bring smiles and connection regardless of individual beliefs and faiths.
So, despite the pandemic, unemployment, food insecurity, racial and political strife, and worst of all ― grief ― we do not stand apart from one other. In this year of disconnection, we have found a way to connect.
We illuminate our homes and neighbourhoods, not only for ourselves but for the weary, anxious passersby who may feel isolated and alone this holiday season. And we reach out like lighthouses to help guide one another to shore. We remain undaunted.
2020 has not broken us. Like the lights of the Chanukah menorah that miraculously shone for eight nights despite only having enough oil for one, our faith endures. As we say in Hebrew, “Chag urim sameach!” Happy Festival of Lights. A miracle happened here.
Chana “Hana” Meddin is a lifelong meditator, nature photographer, artist, and wildlife advocate. She has written for the Times of India’s ‘Speaking Tree’ and has a story published in Oswald Pereira’s book, ‘How to Create Miracles in Our Daily Life.’ She lives in Seattle with her cat, Annabelle Fluff. They both enjoy yoga.