Holiday lights for Diwali, Hanukkah, Solstice, Christmas, and Kwanzaa – that is what I savor on an evening ramble through my neighborhood during these dark days of winter. They’re in the trees, windows, and roofs – inside and outside. Their sparkle lights my way both literally and in my heart. This year – the year that is so very different, the year that is like living in a snow globe that is forever in dizzying motion – I have noticed a few things about these lights.
First, there are more of them, a lot more. Second, they were out way earlier than I can remember from years before now. Third, while they still bring me great kid-like joy, they also have me wondering more about how the people who put them out are doing. I wonder if they are recovering, or if their family is sick. I wonder if they have lost or kept their job. I wonder if they are lonely or hungry. I wonder if someone or some nonprofit is helping them right now. And I wonder if they know that the lights they hung are helping me, too. In all my curiosity, I realize more and more that I just don’t know the answers, and I never will. But I also am finding some comfort, just as I did back in March, that the act of knowing is not what this time and space is all about. I am reminded daily, instead, that ambiguity wins in 2020 and our collective journey through this time is all about staying present, curious, and compassionate.
I have been reflecting a lot while on my walks under the lights that our job is also about learning our way forward. Going back is not an option as we cannot unsee what COVID has laid bare for us. It has deeply exposed systemic disparity, communication rifts, underfunded and underappreciated public health science, political strife, and it has deepened the divide between the haves and the have nots. It has done all of this and so much more. But amidst the sorrow has been a dramatic and subtle shift in the way we work that is proving to be better. We have learned to trust our adaptations and lean more into courageous and honest conversations about equity and the value of more collaboration and less silo approaches to our missions. We have asked better financial resiliency questions when faced with unimaginable choices. Yes, we have learned to go forward. So let’s keep going.
If I could string a set of lights to display our collective learning these past ten months and have those lights lead us – not just to the end of this year but through the challenges that lay ahead as we face 2021 with little assurance that federal or state relief is coming, or worse – I would hold up the incredible bright examples of our nonprofits and the way they have responded to this public health crisis – this oh so very human and so very personal crisis.
There would be lights:
Each of you is a brilliant light, all the stronger as you shine together across Alaska – in every community, in every home, in every way. We simply could not deliver our missions without you. You are our brightest lights in this season and the next, and with you we will find our way forward.
From our Foraker family to yours, may you keep each other safe through this season.