This year has been so full of tragedy and trepidation, it can be difficult to find anything good to be thankful for in this holiday season.  But aside from the general thanks for friends and family, this year of dark times also brings to bright focus the very tools we need to move forward and our hurdles to surpass.  Many people have seen these obstacles in the past, but now they are undeniable, which brings more human energy to solve them.

Nationally, we are seeing the error of our consumptive ways, as we can’t afford to purchase things, but we get along fine without them.  We see our family time growing, and the pulling together of communities in the face of closing stores, rising water and deaf government ears.

The storms, droughts and fires have been slapping us in the face long enough that more and more “deniers” are seeing that something is happening. Regardless of whether they believe humans caused it they are beginning to see the wisdom in conserving energy, cutting down on human contributions and making changes in the way we have been living. If we can’t stop it, we’ll have to do what we can to make it better for us to live here, and make the future better.

Politically, we have seen a set of people talk so much to themselves that they completely missed the reality of an election.  They are still hesitant to recognize that they are not the majority, but the rest of us are finally seeing past the bombastic booming of self-righteousness . We are realizing that those words were self-defeating, and that listening to our better selves is a shared understanding of what is right and wrong.  For too long, those voices have said “Mine, mine, mine,” and “Guard your goods, they’re coming for them.”  Those sounds of negativity drove a sense of sadness, worry and paranoia that others amplified those negatives vibes into a deafening roar.  While that roar still drones on, others are finally realizing that those people are in a self-celebrating echo chamber, not the reality that we all must live in.

The murders in Newtown brought the death of that ignorance along with those terrible killings of children and kindness in adults.  They focused our attention on the darkness of our culture, and though we are still in the throes of recrimination, I believe that we will come around to see the direction that we can take to improve our society in the new future.  It is not in the fear of more guns, but in returning to a sense of community, of belonging, of having an investment in our neighbors as they invest in our own.  Bringing a sense of proportion to choices, such as asking the question, “Which is more art and skill, a single shot or a broadcast of bullets?,” or “why do we enjoy video violence so much? what are we missing our own lives that we need to spread into a virtual realm?” What brought us to the depth that volunteer firefighters get ambushed on the way to helping people and wind up dead, along with five destroyed houses, and additional family homes devastated by loss?

We are also finally seeing the media come around to realizing that focusing on the negative side of the news does not help the problem. It only puts an extra emphasis on the dark side of things.  While good news can be “light and fluffy,” it also acts as a sense of balance to the good that is in the world, and I truly believe there is much more good than evil, if we choose to find it. But just identifying it isn’t enough, it has be made accessible others, so that they begin to recognize the blessings in their own lives.

In creating our sustainability center, I have been told that “we are ahead of time,” or that we are “being sentimental.”  While we may be ahead of our time, it’s only by a little. If we each wait until the whole world catches on, there will be too many voices to hear through the muddle.  Our work is crucial now in reminding people that they do matter, that they do have choices, and the tools and attitudes are here if we want to access them.  It’s not an order, it’s an option.  We are reviving old ways to build a stronger future, not because we think “they are neat,” but because they provide options, power and information to make better choices for the future.  This holiday season is full of gifts among the rubble – can you revive that hope that our society was based on?  If so, join us in that celebration and search.