Last year, I wrapped up the year by looking at numbers. This year, I am not sure where and how to begin counting. It is a cold, gray afternoon, the wind and occasional rain or sleet lashing the trees outside.
It has been a year of losses, starting with the death of Kim Lance, husband to my friend Judy, from a massive heart attack in early November. It hurts to watch Judy grope her way through the deep grief of losing her best friend. Their three children, young adults all, are finding their own way in a world without their dad. I think more than anything else ranging from the national election to bad diagnoses sprinkled too liberally over friends and colleagues, Kim's death and the resulting holes his death ripped in his family, his college (he was a chemistry professor), and the community have been the hardest losses this year.
On the bright side? The Cubs won the World Series and the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and its allies stood their ground and, at least for now, won.
I am penning this out in longhand, sitting in the living room. On the coffee table in front of me, all three menorahs are ready to be lit in a few hours for the eighth and final night of Hanukkah. Given the ugliness of the campaign and the continuing rhetoric of the incoming administration, I worry at what point my personal safety will be at risk to light a menorah, given the strong sense of validation the extreme and violent right took from the election results. Think I am exaggerating? Two words: Whitefish, Montana. How appropriate then that I am celebrating a holiday celebrating a victory against a regime that wanted to eliminate the Jews, albeit by assimilation and not genocide.
At a recent gathering of the Death and Dying Coffee Club (to join, you have to have an incurable and preferably terminal illness, typically cancer), one of our members put to us the question of what was our most profound truth learned in 2016?
"How far backwards we have gone in race in this country, I said gloomily, "because I truly believed we were better than this."
My buddy Corroto was a little more (emphasis on "little") sanguine. "That the only place I can impact is here, locally. All politics really are local." And by local, Corroto means block by block, right here and now. He said he could not affect Washington, our elected state and national officials, and maybe not even our own City Council. But he could make an impact here where his house meets the sidewalk. His new effort was picking up trash when he was out walking the dog, based on an example set by another neighbor.
Small? Absolutely. Inconsequential? I would say not.
Jews are charged with tikkun olam, repairing the world. Our duty is to make those repairs, no matter how small. Picking up trash when you walk is one way. Will I do that too? Maybe.
As I finish typing in my rough notes, I glance out the second floor window. The day is getting gloomier. All the same, I plan to put on my coat and head outside, walking out the year that is dying, girding myself for the one awaiting us all.