In higher education, December is a rush of end-of-the-semester activities: reading papers, proctoring and grading final exams, and helping students manage their overwhelming end-of-the-semester wishes and regrets. In the nonprofit sector, the months of November and December are frenzies of a different sort: Giving Trees, Adopt-a-Family programs, food baskets, toy collections, increased client crises, and helping staff manage their own holiday stressors. Consequently, as a professor AND a nonprofit administrator, maintaining the “holiday spirit” is always struggle. Looking at the sea of disoriented expressions on the faces of those around me, I can see that I am not alone this year.
It’s no wonder. The past two months have had all the makings of a horror movie. An October storm ravaged the east coast, taking lives and devastating survivors. A December storm has pummeled the midwest and is unleashing destruction on the south. Senseless shootings in New York, Pennsylvania and Newton, Connecticut rocked our nation. And we are standing on the edge of a cliff that threatens our economic survival.
A cursory glance at trending news articles might lead you to believe that the most important loss of the season is in retail growth. As an indicator of the mood of the nation, it is certainly significant. However, I am worried about a more enduring loss—the loss of hope.
When we are without hope, we feel powerless. We are loath to take action because we believe it won’t matter anyway. Not taking action contributes to the feeling of powerlessness, which exacerbates feelings of hopelessness. It becomes, in essence, a self-fulfilling prophecy because in our despair we forget that there is a salve for hopelessness right at our fingertips:
Even in this time of great uncertainty and despondency the solution to hopelessness is action. Write or call your legislators so that your voice is heard. Make a budget for 2013—a Plan A and a Plan B. Commit a random act of kindness, or two. Or 27. Hug your kids more. Let them hug you, too. Just do something.
I wish you peace, love, health, and happiness throughout this holiday season. May hope motivate all of us through despair and toward action.