I love watching the Chanukah candles dance and dazzle in the darkness during the shortest days of the year. The aroma of the candles, the glow of the lights that reflect in the window for passersby to see, and the colored wax that melts down into abstract art.
The candles remind us -- just like the story of Chanukah -- that there is hope, light, and miracles even in the darkness.
I cannot remember living through a more divisive time in our country than right now. My contemporaries and I, in our 30s and early 40s, were not around for the clashes of the 1960s -- we had only heard about the protests second-hand through our parents. Now, we're watching the protests unfold in real time outside our windows. Some of us are even marching along with them.
No matter who you hoped would be the next president, half the country is devastated by the results. People are feeling anxious, helpless, and fearful about our future and the lack of understanding half the American population seems to have for the other half, and vice versa.
When times are dark, we need to remember to light candles to illuminate our paths. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness."
The day after the election, a few of us got to do just that. A group of us volunteer at an elementary school through JUF's Tikkun Olam Volunteer (TOV) Network literacy program TOV Reads, in partnership with Working in the Schools (WITS). Every other week, we take an hour-long break from the work day to read books with the students.
I spotted Robert*, my second grade buddy, coyly smiling at me, book in hand, and ready to read. In between reading about clown fish and hippos, Robert and I chatted. I learned from Robert about the candy he accumulated on Halloween, that he and his family plan to travel to Wisconsin over the upcoming weekend, and that his favorite book is "the one about Anne Frank."
For just a moment, I forgot about the noise of the election, the angry newsfeeds, the protests, and the clamor outside those school walls. And, despite us reading a book chosen by Robert about killer animals, I felt so at peace -- so present. Robert was a glimmer of light in the darkness.
As the days grow shorter, let's find glimmers of light wherever we can -- and there are many -- because we need them even more than ever this winter.
After Robert had mentioned Anne Frank, I stumbled upon a quote from her diary. In it, she writes, "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."
So where will you begin?
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.