While the magical holidays are upon us, and I celebrate the joys of the many blessings bestowed upon my life, my heart still holds the turmoil of so many that I consider dear.  As I was out dog walking on a recent, frigid Chicago morning, I was remembering a conversation I had with a friend of mine a couple days back.

My friend is a wonderfully kind person; genuine and warm-spirited, but on this day she was frazzled.  It was obvious that something was clearly off.  As we spoke, she shared with me that she has been unable to sleep or eat as of recently, and she was riddled with anxiety and fear.  She shared with me how upset she was that a dear friend of hers had been attacked by a group of white men, shouting hateful words at him; while physically intimidating him.  And, after a bit of time, she revealed to me that she, personally, had been run off the road by a white male driver who passed her pointing to the equal rights for gays, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender sticker on her car window.  She shared how she felt she now needed to remove her visible support for her beloved community, out of fear for her safety.  Her free speech was no longer actually free.

I have another friend whose son recently identified as gay, but, since the recent turn of events, has been so anxious about being bullied or hurt as he enters a new school, that their family has started counseling.

Earlier this past year, I logged onto social media, and smiled over the images of so many of my wonderful friends who were finally able to celebrate their love, and unite in marriage; some having waited endless decades.  Thinking to myself: relationships are so incredible complicated and require such commitment to individually grow while simultaneously nurturing a shared connection with another.  I can’t imagine having to, on top of that, also fight for my right to legally follow the love in my heart.

The truth of the matter is, I have been actively reflecting on the place that compassion holds within our current society, and the universe as a whole.  I had always held the feeling that, over the years of my lifetime, acceptance of others seemed to be growing and evolving; allowing for the witnessing of a multitude of ethnicities, cultures, and lifestyles to come together.  So, as these experiences have been brought to my awareness, it has required a strong anchoring within myself to maintain my foundation of love and compassion for all, as I see so many I care for submerged in their fears.

It has taken me several days to understand that the job all of us hold within ourselves is to stand strong in our acceptance and compassion, by standing against oppression and aggression.  But also, and this has been the harder of the two to find space for within myself, is to recognize that those bullying, those lashing out with aggression, they too are afraid, and they too need compassion.  That is not to say that their actions are to be tolerated, but rather that as human beings, they have yet to hold within themselves that greater love for humanity that paints a life with deep beauty.  They have a fearful guard up within themselves that prevents them from being open to others.  Perhaps the beauty of living in a large city is that we are a melting pot of culture that more accurately reflects the woven fabric of this country.  Throughout my years here it has been an honor to have so many opportunities to see communities of people stand strong together and thrive.

All of this lingers in my mind as I gather around the table with those I hold dear, to celebrate our freedoms, our blessings, and the valued space we each hold in one anothers’ lives. My heart fills with hope that my dear friends are too gathered around tables with others who are able to see beyond their labels, and hold them with love, appreciation, and acceptance.

I am thankful to hold an openness to others that extends beyond my doorstep.  I am thankful that there are millions of others who also do. I am thankful to be able to share these words with all of you.

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