Maybe you know this story. A child asks why there’s evil in the world. Her grandfather explains that within every person live two wolves, that always fight. One wolf wants that person to do good. The other wants evil. In a nervous voice the girl asks, “Which one of them will win?” Her grandfather answers, “That’s easy. Whichever one you feed.”
Hungry wolves have been on my mind this year. That and Dickens: “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” Every day, it seems, brings dark news. I hear would-be-leaders preach hate, and learn of children – not unlike my own – piled into flimsy rafts and launched into the night. What level of fear would it take to leave everything our family has built and just run? Bad wolves.
But each day brings glad tidings too. Paris, still healing, witnessed the signing of our planet’s rescue plan. Spare rooms are being opened to grateful strangers. After decades of work, the James River is reported cleaner than since the 1970’s. Good wolves.
It is in this season of long nights — a time when we, like our ancestors, balance the darkness with songs, friends, food and reflection on the year past – I offer a menu of options for strengthening up RVA’s good-wolf pack.
This is not a to-list. It’s a sampling of opportunities — possible New Year’s resolutions – reminding us that tomorrow’s headlines depend on what we each do today.
BUY A SLEEPING BAG. Winter is here, and countless Syrian refugees – children and parents and grandparents — are sleeping outside tonight. Picture trying to keep a little one warm on the slopes of the Blue Ridge…tonight. Then consider a donation of $150 to the UN Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to buy sleeping bags for three families.
WALK BY RIVERS. In the words of the author Henry Beston, “Touch the earth, love the earth, honor the earth: her plains, her valleys, her hills, and her seas; rest your spirit in her solitary places.”
THEN GO BACK, WITH A CHILD. We love what we know, and we protect what we love. Introduce your daughter, your son, your niece, nephew or neighbor to the magic of the wild world.
INSTALL A RAIN BARRELL. When it rains, the runoff from roofs, streets and driveways floods the James with dirty water (chemicals, litter, soil, etc.). If we each catch the flow off our home, it adds up.
KEEP THE SABBATH. Embrace a day of rest that suits you and your “roommates.” Maybe go off-line; no phones/internet for the day. Maybe make it car-free. Or a day when you don’t extend/except invitations. Just give yourself and your loved ones time to rest. Read. Make art. Sing. Bake. Breathe.
VISIT A MOSQUE. One of my students ended the semester with an essay about Islamophobia targeting Muslim women (easily identifiable by their scarves). Only with gestures of friendship can we counter such bigotry. So reach out. Visit the Islamic Center of Richmond. You’ll be welcomed with warmth and smiles. As the Dalai Lama said, “It is not enough to have compassion. You must act.”
QUIT (SOME) MEAT. Not necessarily every day, or even all day. Meat is delicious, after all. But we know the consequences of this luxury, on the climate, and on the animals we eat. So how about going meatless one day of the week? Veggy lasagna Monday? Or one meal every day? Potato tacos for lunch? And when we buy meat, let’s buy local. “Home will always be Virginia” is the motto of a happy hog.
QUIT ALL COAL. Solar’s getting cheaper, and there are tax credits. What better purpose for a home equity loan? If you’re not ready for that step (maybe renting?) there are other ways to ditch our dirtiest fuel. We can buy wind-generated electricity delivered by Dominion through our existing power lines. Contact Arcadia Power to make 2016 coal-free.
STEAL FIVE MINUTES A DAY. Close the door. Sit. Breathe. When your mind starts to relive recent conversations, or craft a list of tomorrow’s tasks, tug it back like a puppy on a leash. Just breathe. A tidal wave of research reveals mindfulness as key for success and healing, benefitting everyone from corporate leaders to veterans suffering from PTSD. You don’t need to take a class or read a book or by into any spiritual notions. Start with five minutes each day when you’re not supposed to be doing anything else. Just breathe.
PLANT A TREE. Over a hundred years ago Lucy Larcum, another poet, wisely announced that “We who plant a tree plant hope.” So let’s get planting. Find a bare spot – a corner of your yard, an empty tree well on your block, a playground that needs shade – and fill it with hope. Then watch it grow. On behalf of my child’s children’s children, Thank you.
Here’s wishing us all a forest of hope, a river of joy, a world of peace, and a badass good-wolf pack throughout this coming year.