Welcome to the fourth Carnival of Hope! Before we get started, I'd like to look ahead for a moment to the January edition, which will be posted on Friday, January 12, with a theme of "new beginnings." The deadline for submissions is Thursday, January 11, at 5 PM PST. You can either use the BlogCarnival submission form or e-mail me directly at SusanPal (at) aol (dot) com.
Now for the business before us! Because this is the darkest time of the year, celebrated with festivals of light in many cultural and spiritual traditions, the theme for this month's edition is "light in the darkness." And so, although I wanted to keep the CoH trademark of the periwinkle growing up through the sidewalk, it seems fitting to add another image.
As we ponder the candle flame dancing in the darkness, we may find ourselves thinking about different meanings and uses of light, as Nickie does in her post Shining Light on Hope. She reminds us that "the light of hope demands truth about our circumstances. When we truly hope, we acknowledge the things we don't like, but actively seek good things that will make something better." In this post, Nickie moves from a meditation on the novel Barabbas to a moving story about coming to terms with her own chronic pain. I hope Nickie won't mind my saying that the light imagery in this post is especially poignant because she's blind, and navigates her days through literal darkness.
Darkness and light take many forms other than the literal, though. There are fewer things that can more quickly plunge a family into darkness than a health crisis, especially before the holidays. This is when light-bearers are most welcome. Karen Lynch tells the story of the ultimate holiday gift in A Selfless Gift-Love goes round and round.
Regular readers of this blog know that a friend of mine has just been diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer. His wife told me a wonderful story about help from an unexpected quarter, which I share in A Most Excellent Rickety Contrivance. And Barbra Sundquist shares her own heartening tale of corporate kindness in Compassion and Business: Not Mutually Exclusive.
In a season that has become pathologically over-commercialized, these stories drive home the truth of the bromide that "money can't buy happiness." It turns out that this cliche, like so many others, has a basis in fact: according to an article about Happiness Science in Alternet, "The only time people's subjective well-being rises as a result of cash is when the money takes them out of poverty." (My thanks to Will Shetterly for pointing me to this article.) And yet we all know that there's too much poverty in the world, as my friend Lee acknowledges when the top three items on her Perfect Christmas List are world peace, no more hunger, and no more poverty.
Daunting requests indeed! Really, it's so much easier to buy sweaters and iPods at the mall, isn't it? But even a very small donation, a mere dollar, can help end poverty and promote peace, as Greg Go reminds us in Micro-donations for Darfur. David E., likewise, urges us to do our part in ending hunger, and describes the inspiring organization Feed My Starving Children.
If you're like me, though, you already feel beseiged by requests for charitable donations at this time of year. The imploring letters from non-profit organizations, all with impeccably worthy goals, never seem to stop, do they? That's why it often makes sense to pick one cause, make it our own, and contribute not just money, but time, energy, and love. Bobbarama did just that when he volunteered to help out at the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Breast Cancer Walk in San Diego in November. Be sure to read both of his posts about this moving event: Hitting the Road for a Good Cause, written before the Cancer Walk, and Zero to 60 in Three Days, written afterwards.
Sometimes the grace and humor needed to deal with a devastating medical condition are only visible to the patient's closest friends. Laura Young shares her love for her friend Michael, a quadriplegic, in Powerful Story of Survival: Thirty-one Years and Still Standing. And, just to remind us that humans aren't the only models of courage and persistence in the face of mortality, Linda Freedman offers a shining example of Inspiration in the form of an industrious spider. Don't miss the wonderful YouTube music video!
I tell Carnival of Hope contributors that I prefer personal stories, and I've already included more "impersonal" items in this edition than usual. But I'd like to share one more that really resonated for me. Last summer, I took a course on art and spirituality where we worked with various symbols and images. One of the ones that came up for me was a broken egg, and the phrase that arose when I thought about that image was, "If you feel broken, maybe something's hatching." I'd forgotten all about that moment in the class until I read the parable of The Cracked Pot, submitted by Praveen. For me, this story is a reminder that even at our most flawed, we can nourish others.
I'd like to end with another gem from Nickie, one she posted rather than writing herself. It's an Advent reflection, author unknown, from the "Daily Update" webpage of her college, The College of St. Catherine. Because I'm not sure how long the link to the quotation will be active, I'm posting the text. While this is especially meaningful to those of us from the Abrahamic faith traditions, I hope others will also find it moving:
With prophets Isaiah and Micah, we wait for the one who will bring the healing liberation of justice's peace. With John the Baptizer and Joseph, we wait for the one who will bring the healing liberation of forgiveness. With Dorothy Day and Oscar Romero, we wait for the one who can bring forth the kingdom of healing liberation: ourselves. And while we wait for you, you wait for us.May all of you have a blessed and light-filled holiday season, and may your waiting be rewarded!