Recently I facilitated a Candlelight Vigil for some young mothers of the Hudson River Towns who invited their neighbors to reach across the divides that the election campaign had widened and express the hopes we all share for our children. Now, as anxiety grows in the face of the unfolding political transition process I’d like to take the idea a step further and call for a Connecting Vigil to deepen and expand that hope. This is the season of hope and we generate hope when we connect around essential things that we all share.
Last night on TV I watched a town hall discussion with Bernie Sanders in Kenosha WI, which is a typical example of a world that has changed in recent times because of forces that are global in nature. In Kenosha a globalized economy has impacted their lives in a fundamental way. While there are lots of things to discuss about these global forces I want to touch on one, and that is how these forces which we can probably understand and could even adapt to with the right help and leadership, have tended to benefit one small segment of our society at the expense of the rest. This is the top 1% that we have heard about since the Occupy Movement and that was the clarion call of Bernie Sanders during the election process.
Bernie Sanders shone a clear light on the issue and people flocked to hear him. Donald Trump shone a similar light, with the same results. It remains clear – certainly from the comments of the people in Kenosha – that this is still the central issue and that people voted for Trump because they believed he was more likely to address this imbalance. While there is little evidence in Trump’s choices for his Cabinet that this will happen we can still hope for a change of heart. But this hope can’t be passive; we can’t simply wait for this possibility.
What we have to do is, first stop judging each other for the way we voted and remember what most of us were looking for in a new president. If we could share with each other what our hopes actually were and are we would be surprised at how similar they are, and we might even be able to join hearts and hands in calling for them if the new administration doesn’t live up to its promises.
Moreover, by coming together like this we will prevent any attempt to keep us apart and thereby unable to take such a stand. We will, in fact, prevent the ‘divide and conquer strategy’ that has always allowed unfaithful leaders to retain power over us, even when they have reneged on their promises.
So I’m inviting us to use this season ‘when the wolf lies down with the lamb and the leopard with the kid; and the calf and the young lion (and Democrats with Republicans?); and a little child shall lead them….’ for coming together across our differences and allowing the little child that hopes in all of us to lead us.
As with the candlelight vigil, this is a time to remember who we are and to be vigilant about what is truly important. In this way we will keep alive the flame of possibility in the face of the very complex challenges we face locally and globally: challenges that transcend partisan politics and that need us to do the same.
It means inviting a group of family or friends, or neighbors, or colleagues to come together for 20 minutes more or less, at any time during this season, inside or outside. The only preparation is a handful of candles though some will want to elaborate further (with a fire, a hot drink…). This can be a special, in the sense of separate gathering, or it can be simply integrated into one of the many Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza, New Year gatherings we will have anyway.
It might be that some of us will be moved to repeat the gathering or widen the outreach to include people who clearly think differently from us, or even use it to take further steps into understanding each other. For it is such understanding that enables us to hold our differences together – without trying to convince or defeat each other – and in this way generate new, shared understanding that is the only foundation for moving forward with hope.
My final thought is that this is how movements for change start: with a simple connecting process that joins hearts. Today, in the face of other, clearly destructive movements, we can’t simply hope in a passive way. We must act.
I am sending out this invitation – this call, in fact – through a number of networks. And this may be enough to start something if you forward it to other networks you are part of. I can offer one platform – this Blog – for gathering comments, reports, pictures, etc. as a way of building momentum. though you might want to use your own. Perhaps other ways of doing this will surface in the process.
The important thing is to begin.
Suggestions for Introducing the Gathering (3 m)
A vigil is a time for being awake and aware: for being vigilant about what is important to us, about who we are, and about what we want our future to be. We have come together for this Connecting Vigil because we want to reinforce our essential connectedness and the values that we all hold. While change can make us anxious, it also brings the opportunity to remember what we share rather than to focus on what separates us. This will make us stronger and more able to hold our leaders accountable.
We can begin our Vigil by noticing and then letting go of the single-identity thinking which can cause us to reduce each other to stereotypes – Republican, Democrat, Black, White, Muslim, Latino, Gay, etc. – and thereby create an us vs them mentality. Life is much more complex. We are all much more complex.
But building our communities also means finding shared identities that unite us. Our old American identity is evolving, stretched by globalization, and expanding through increasing diversity. We have to discover together new identities – both national and global – that bind and embrace all our particular identities. Elements of that shared identity include inclusivity regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation, kindness and hope. Some might call this love. This identity is the light that will hold us together across our differences and allow us to make a good future for our children.
Invitation Suggestions (5 m)
Let me begin by inviting you to get a taste of that shared identity by turning to someone you don’t know and for one minute each, describe your hope for the future you want for your children (Share for 2-3 m)
Could we call out some of the elements of that hope we just shared (2 m)
These are the foundation of the shared identity that we need to develop together.
Suggested Thoughts on the Candles (2 m)
Light is a symbol of hope. One light can inspire possibility – it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness; many lights together can guide the way forward. So light your candle and pass the light on to a neighbor.
Silence Thoughts (1 m)
Let’s have a moment of silence to savor the hope we share – the foundation of our shared identity – and be inspired by the light we can create together.
Conclusion Thoughts (3 m)
We can take this light home with us and nurture it with our children. But we can also share it with our friends and neighbors and start something together: a citizens’ movement toward a more hopeful future?