As mild as the weather in our county is, we do have our seasons, especially in north county. We have been in the midst of a cold spell recently. It makes us think of those in our midst who have no warm space to lay their head at night. But of course, shelter is not their only concern; they also need nutritious food, which is our work at the Food Bank. And our work extends not only to the homeless, but to all who live in the cold fear and stress of not knowing where their next meal is coming from. 40% of them are children and most of them have working parents struggling harder during the winter holidays to provide family necessities.
Why then, is winter filled with messages of hope, peace, joy, and merriment? Is it because we know spring is coming? Is it only the anticipation of warmer, better times? I don’t think so. Harsh situations are not meant to be waited out in quiet suffering. The cold, harsh times in our lives are intended to be the happiest of times because they pull us together as a community to help and to share with one another. It is when an unknown neighbor encounters a rough spot that we hear that quiet voice in our ear that invites us, “Bring in the joy of winter! Be a light in the darkness! You can make a difference and bring hope into this person’s life!”
Of course, when we hear this quiet whispering in our ear, other voices of fear come quickly to make us feel safe. “What good can I do in such overwhelming circumstances?” “If I share a part of what I have, I may not have enough for my own family!” “It’s not my fault that this person has gotten into this situation!”
Winter is the season of hope because it is the season of concern for those in need. It is the season of gift giving at the time of year when those gifts may be the difference between life and death, or the difference between feeling alone and forgotten, or knowing that someone cares. Whether one gives or one receives, he or she participates in the fullness of our humanity that is ever hopeful through the simple action of reaching out into the cold and darkness with the warmth and light of human concern and action.
The holiday practice of great consumption of food and toys for all ages hints at its deeper meaning. There is enough for everyone to be at the table of hope. We learn when we give and when we receive what it is to be fully human.