Today is the autumn equinox. Summer has officially changed to fall, my favorite season of the year. Lots of great things happen for me this season. Anniversaries, birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving. Harvest, changing leaves, crisp air and pumpkins. While I was raising my children and later as an academic advisor at a college, September was always been the beginning of the new year, not January. Getting ready for fall means new school supplies, new clothes, a fresh start. A new beginning. The equinox signals the change.
Mahatma Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world”. As I write, I think of all the things I would change if I could. A safe place for those seeking asylum from violence and poverty. Mother Earth prevailing through the huge weight humans have imposed on her for millennia, that change causing massive hurricanes, fires, tornadoes, droughts. Ways to finally understand that we humans are all the same, spirits in a material world. I worry for the next generation, for the world my grandson will inherit.
The problems I have faced I consider first world problems. What time is dance practice? Can I make the music recital? What should we have for dinner? Do I have to go to the grocery store again even though this grocery store is filled to the roof with goods and food and choices beyond any imagining? I can take for granted that there is a full grocery store, or a gas station to refill my car or electricity and heat in my home.
I’m not suggesting that anyone has had an easy life. Everyone I know has suffered tragedy, heartbreak, sadness and despair. My own little family has dealt with the devastating fear of a life threatening childhood diagnosis and months of hospitals and medicines and sleepless nights. But we have had access to world-class hospitals; Harvard trained doctors, cutting edge medications and were blessed with health and survival.
The parents we see running through the fields and along the train tracks are not so lucky.
What do we teach our children about the trouble of the world and how they can help? How do you not make them feel guilty for their great blessings but rather have them see that they have the power to make a change? I believe the truth to be by our example only. Compassion cannot be taught with words. Righteous anger at human injustices cannot be learned from a book.
In this age of great connections through technology it is possible to assume I can understand the pain those fleeing parents feel. But I truly cannot. I just try to keep courage and compassion in my own heart and hope that the rippling effects of those emotions can somehow reach them. And then look to my own neighborhood to see where I can help.
This September has dark things coming out of the shadows and discourse seems alive wherever one looks. Yet there is the other side, that equal balance of the equinox. This September has shone a light on heroes and heroines of many colors, genders, backgrounds and creeds. There has been thousands willing to stand, to kneel or to lay down in the face of injustice and the never ending pandemic. There is hope and strength and so much courage. There is the opportunity to change the narrative, a chance to do something different now that the sun has crossed the equator. And, yes, I am gratified that my children have grown into the compassionate and involved citizens of the world I hoped they would be.
Despite the dark days and the muted nights, life marches on. The devastating natural disasters have paradoxically brought out the best of humanity. In the face of that fury there is no color, creed or gender. There’s just people in need of each other. Why does it take these extreme measures to make us realize how alike we all really are? How fragile we are? How strong we are? That our blood is the exact same color and texture. That all of our brain matter is grey. That our lungs move in and out in harmony. That we all laugh and cry and love and struggle. We all have hopes and dreams. Life is not black or white. It’s a rainbow created by the sun shining through raindrops. Out of the mud comes the lotus. This too shall pass just as the equinox slowly changes the balance of the sun’s trajectory. The equinox has made the transition and we are on the other side. Which road will we take into autumn?