My holiday break this year has been laden with sunshine, snowflakes and slow moments.
I have caught up on holiday movies (White Christmas was new to me but I could watch Alistair Sim try to stand on his head a hundred times over). I have inhaled the pinks, blues and yellows of deep winter walks. And I have indulged in extra-long, ever-late bedtime stories and snuggles.
There was a moment or two, I admit, when I applauded myself for surviving the self-imposed madness of December. I had attended the kids’ holiday talent show, successfully hosted a neighbourhood get-together, participated thoughtfully in gift exchanges and more or less completed any work that would keep my boss up at night until the office filled up again in January.
The extra time does wonders for the spirit. Of course, reflection, in such precious moments, is automatic.
I think about my children and where their lives are headed. I think about my place in the world and my contributions to it. And, of course, I think about those around the world who don’t have the luxury of play time in the snow.
As we packed up the last of the holiday loot from our desks at the office in the days leading up to the break, we had exchanged the typical happy holiday messages. For those who work on CARE’s emergency aid teams, their holiday wish was for quiet – a sign that the world over was more or less at rest. These comments are always met with a smile but also with the reality that the vulnerable around the world don’t get the privilege of scheduled holidays.
It wasn’t long before the news broke about the devastation in Indonesia wrought by yet another tsunami. That makes three in recent months, and many more over the past decades.
Where I had nearly pat myself on the back for surviving a pre-teen dance routine by a daughter who stopped ballet at age 3, I was plunged into narratives of mothers who had kept their family safe through the last disaster, only to lose those close to them this time around.
My colleagues have kept all of us apprised of the death toll, the broken infrastructure and the vital actions that CARE staff members are taking on the ground in Indonesia to help those who need it most. I’ve read most of these dispatches while surrounded by warmth and food and with family members wearing reindeer jammies. Try as I might, these two realities are hard to piece together. How can some of us in the world share so many gifts—family, peace, safety—at the exact moment that others have all of these things torn away from them?
In many favourite holiday movies, there is an compelling theme of ‘what if’, of things that could be, things that might have been. And more often than not, the protagonist wakes from their shallow and singular perspective of the world to seek out new perspectives, to embrace others, to share, and to celebrate.
On many late nights this holiday, I have layered these notions over the choices that lay ahead for me—and for all of us—in the coming year. Calling these resolutions will doom them to inaction, so let's just say these are ongoing commitments. And while I'm no George Bailey, these actions are the least I can do:
- Give more and more often. I’ve made a few donations at year-end, but there is always another deserving organization – and, more importantly, another person who could use a helping hand.
- Learn more. The news is one thing. But understanding the perspective of others - what it’s like to live without security, without privilege, without equal rights - is just as important. My reading list is long and I’m determined to get through it.
- Share more. My daughters’ minds are widening by the second and there is so much of the world – the good and bad – that they are ready not only to understand, but to take action for. I will take them with me on as many journeys as I can.
- And finally, celebrate more and see the small victories each day. Though the road to recovery in Indonesia will be long and many lives have been lost, things will get better. Thanks to our supporters, CARE is distributing hygiene kits for some of those worst affected by the most recent tsunami in the Sunda Straits. More help will come. And more women, girls and their families, will rise from this crisis, stronger than ever.
Near and far, when we come together, 2019 will be a good year.