January

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flock, the work of Christmas begins: to find the lost, the heal the broken, the free the prisoners, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among (siblings), to make music in the heart.

These words from African American minister Howard Thurman challenge us to move from December to January, from the Christmas season to constructive work to make the world more like we long for it to be. The Gandhi-King-Gyatso Season for Non-violence doesn’t begin until the end of the month, but the Unitarian Universalist “30 Days of Love” kick off on January 16, with racial justice being this year’s theme.

The problem of realizing social justice is so huge that working at it can discourage us. My reaction often is, “Haven’t I already done this?” Feeding the hungry, healing the sick, ministering to the imprisoned – all of these are literally endless tasks. Even making significant social change – agitating for civil rights for all people without regard for race, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity; working for the elimination of poverty through living wages and adequate social supports; creating support systems to help people escape domestic violence, sexual slavery, or addiction – so many of these efforts seem to be two steps forward, one step back, demanding continual attention to hold onto any small gains achieved. How do we maintain our commitment to making a difference?

There are some ways to diminish discouragement. One is to do the work together. Together, we have more ideas and more power. We support one another, reassure each other in times of failure, celebrate together in times of victory, and strategize together in times of confusion. The work – and it is work – is much easier with more hands. Another strategy is to recognize the difficult changes that have already come. Same sex marriage, once unimaginable, is now legal. Women and people of color, though still without economic parity, have many more opportunities than even fifty years ago. Voting rights, though under attack, are more universal than they once were. Environmental awareness has increased, as pollution as decreased, even if we still find ourselves overly dependent on fossil fuels. When we can see ourselves as part of a long line of people striving for justice, then we can find a confidence that our modest efforts, in the long run, are worth it.

We aren’t all able to have an earth-shattering impact. But our small daily efforts matter. Maybe it’s educating our children about equality, offering kindness to a stranger, writing a small check, or volunteering a few hours. As we move into the New Year, perhaps our resolutions can focus not only on personal improvements, but also on how we want to make a difference in the world.

In faith and freedom,

Jonalu

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