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The On Being Project

Image By Roman Lily/Flickr
Krista on Not Doing Christmas; Parker on Being a Light for Others; Postcards for Hanukkah; Courtney on the Giving Conundrum; Remembering All at Sandy Hook; Losing a Sister to Cancer; A Map That Will Suck You in for Hours

Krista on Not Doing Christmas; Parker on Being a Light for Others; Postcards for Hanukkah; Courtney on the Giving Conundrum; Remembering All at Sandy Hook; Losing a Sister to Cancer; A Map That Will Suck You in for Hours

I suspect that there are many of you who feel like Krista does (James Martin speaks of “untaming Christmas” in this week’s podcast). She recorded this remarkable commentary, “Why I Don’t Do Christmas,” in which she reflects on not playing the Christmas game of obligatory gift-giving and the redemptive human need for one another. Listen in and read her entire essay on our blog.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a mid-level solar flare – as seen in the bright flash in the middle – on December 16, 2014 shortly before midnight. Read more. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / NASA/Goddard/SDO.)

Parker Palmer elaborates on this theme of the beloved community too. With a poem from Mary Oliver, he calls us to serve as beacons of light in the shadow for others to be guided by. Powerful imagery, in word and photo:

“No one of us can provide all of the light we need. But every one of us can shed some kind of light. Every day we can ask ourselves, ‘What kind of light can I provide today?'”

(Matthew Septimus)

Each day for eight nights, I’m releasing “Postcards for Hanukkah.” It’s an enchanting collaboration between a photographer (Matthew Septimus) + a poet (Esther Cohen) ruminating on holy people and holy places that transcend the ordinary:

“Over the years we began to consider our project as a kind of prayer, how prayers would be if they were pictures and poems.”

It’s such a privilege and a gift to be able to work with such marvelous people. Please check out their work and share with others.

(Ernst Gräfenberg / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).)

The end of 2014 is fast approaching. And with that comes an influx of charitable giving. In this digital age when the basket is now an online form, Courtney Martin asks in her column, “The Giving Conundrum,” how we can create a spiritual practice of tithing and discern the “right” way to give. Perhaps you have some suggestions?

A young woman holds a photo of the 20 children who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. Two years ago, Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 first graders and six adults at the school in Newtown, Connecticut. The school has been demolished, and local authorities decided not to hold a public memorial on the anniversary out of respect for victims’ survivors and their privacy. (Win McNamee / Getty Images.)

Last Sunday, Parker Palmer listed the 26 children and adults who died in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School — along with a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye. It’s a list we must return to and remember out of love and hope for a safer world. But, one reader, Eva Hulme, pointed out that there was one name omitted:

“Adam Lanza’s name is missing from the list. At church today we remembered each victim by name — including Adam. As a teacher, I know firsthand that we scarcely have the resources to guide and support children with mental illness. As we remember this tragedy, please do not leave Adam’s family out of your prayers.”

Joe and Livia

The losses many experience this time of year are especially acute. Joe DePlasco contemplates the loss of his sister to cancer, the place where she searched for home, and the stories that rise up within him:

“I was so quick to dispute my sister’s sense of the past. I am not happier for that. How stupid of me.”

This passage speaks to us — about all the silly contestations and arguments we have that are about being right rather than an embracing others’ truths.

A woman pushes a cart through a market in Seoul, South Korea. (Ed Jones / AFP/Getty Images.)

Your essays, commentaries, and photo essays continue to flow in like honey. In previous issues, I’ve invited you to contribute to our blog, and so many of you were gracious enough to share your words. Like this one…

“We’re going to start with small, easy things; then, little by little we shall try our hand at the big things. And after that, after we finish the big things, we shall undertake the impossible.”

After hearing Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai on the radio, Shannon Lynch, a 50-something woman from the Midwest reflected on her own life and the courage to choose hope in the face of despair. Sometimes our mentors come from the most unexpected places.

I’ll be posting more of your work in the coming weeks. The invitation still stands. Write a commentary or share a photo essay. Submit your work via a web form or send your work to me directly. My email address is [email protected]. My Twitter handle: @trentgilliss.

And, I found myself spending hours on this interactive series of migration maps from The New York Times. It’s an amazing resource that will help you see the bigger picture of how mobile Americans are over time: in 1900, in 1950, in 2012. Warning: you might be sucked into this vortex while sifting through these charts. Enjoy!

May the wind be at your back.

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