Columnist Andrea Ayvazian: Fueled by need to take hands and connect

  • About 400 people protesting the election of Donald Trump march Nov. 20, 2016, from Sheldon Field in Northampton to a rally in front of City Hall. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Published: 12/23/2016 10:29:26 PM

This year the winter solstice, the beginning of Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s Eve fall within days of each other. These days, celebrated around the world, all involve some invocation of light in the darkest time of the year, kindling a sense of hope and signaling a turning and new beginning.

This year, as President-elect Trump prepares to move into the White House, many people in our community are fearful of a Trump presidency and I would like to address my thoughts to you.

Those of us who find the image of Mr. Trump entering the Oval Office deeply worrisome are struggling to feel hopeful. It is difficult to put a silver lining on a campaign rooted in division, prejudice, disinformation, and contempt. And nearly impossible for many of us to find hopeful threads in the specter of a Trump presidency.

However, as a person of faith I have been looking for signs of hope during this holy time of the year and, to my amazement, I did not have to look far. I worry about sounding syrupy, misguided or naïve, but I actually feel both grateful and hopeful in these waning days of 2016, and it is totally genuine.

I feel grateful and hopeful because our raw need for each other has been exposed, and people have been interacting, since the election, from a place of vulnerability. Progressive folks, devastated by the Trump win, are coming together with undefended hearts and talking about supporting each other, and creating strategies to resist the onslaught of dangerous policies which will disproportionately affect frontline communities while holding onto a vision of a country that values inclusion, justice, peace and hospitality.

Our raw need for each other has emerged — it cannot be hidden or denied. Progressive folks who oppose Trump’s decisions, choices, tweets, and victory laps, simply must connect with one another to stay sane. Any thoughts we may have had that we are autonomous, we can go-it-alone, or we can do-our-own thing are shattered.

What is evident, now beyond question, is our interdependence. What is clear, without a doubt, is that our ability to effectively and powerfully resist the injustices of the Trump presidency is only possible through collective action. Our raw need for each other is our hope, our answer, and our lifeline.

The hyper-local groups springing up nationwide report that there is remarkable energy in the room, pledges of deep mutual support, and concrete plans to put more and more “tools” in the resist Trump “toolboxes” — tools like bystander training, nonviolence training, how to run for office sessions, and despair to empowerment workshops.

Neighbors who had never been in one another’s homes are gathering in each other’s living rooms connecting heart-to-heart and making plans to make change.

Houses of worship are finding new ways to extend their welcome, and engaging in dialogue across lines of faith, class, race, and party affiliation.

Teachers report connecting with each other across disciplines as they find new and creative ways to talk to children about bullying, and language and behaviors that hurt and exclude.

Communities are discussing what it means to welcome refugees, offer sanctuary and protect the most vulnerable.

What is hopeful in this difficult and frightening time is that folks are not alone with their anxiety. Our raw need for each other has broken down and broken through the little walls and pretenses we create when we answer “Fine, and how are you?” when someone inquires about how we are doing. Progressive folks are not responding “fine” any longer.

We have busted through the social norms that say: be polite, don’t burden this person, maintain your privacy, act like all is well. We have grown good at that façade, but that is all out the window now.

Our raw need for each other is allowing us to say “pretty scared” when someone asks us how we are. And then, standing in the produce section in the grocery store, we share a meaningful 10-minute conversation that actually helps and fortifies us.

The winter solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas and the new year are now all upon us. A time of turning and new beginning. And I — who have been despairing for weeks — am thankful for the closeness I am feeling with my neighbors, friends, and even strangers who care to open up on the check-out line at the co-op.

Our raw need for each other has put wind in my sails because I know we will face the serious challenges ahead together — sharing our fears, outrage, strategies, trainings, preparations, marches, workshops, panels, and tears side-by-side-by-side. I am hopeful during these holy days in December because I do not feel alone. I feel fueled by the need we all seem to be feeling to take hands and connect.

Together we can and we are generating hope, vision, and the revitalization of a movement that reflects our love for peace, fairness, inclusion, community, generosity and compassion. That is powerful. And my heart is grateful.

The Rev. Andrea Ayvazian, pastor of the Haydenville Congregational Church, writes a monthly column on faith, culture and politics. She can be reached at opinion@gazettenet.com.




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