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Our Place in the Universe this Holiday Season

2020 December 13
by Mike Vial
During his 1933 inaugural address, FDR bluntly said, “They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish…” FDR addressed more than a ruinous Wall Street; he reminded America that “there was nothing to fear but fear itself.”
As I read his words in a modern light, I reflect upon how we have people using credit cards to pay rent, families forced to steal $15-20 of food to supplement the mouths of their children, and 13,000 people dying—this week alone—from a virus that thrives when we gather. I’m fearful, fearful that too many have given up on their personal responsibility of being a democratic citizen; abandoned their recognition that they are a potential host for Coronavirus, when contact tracing is overwhelmed; forgotten their ability to be an empathic neighbor.
We all have a small, yet connected place in this universe.
The vision of our holidays will be colored by Covid-19. We must applaud those who continue to sacrifice, sharing their meals with a smaller table, so we can beat this curve. We must do our part, so our health care systems don’t implode, especially in the rural, underserved corners of our country. We must reach out to our neighbors, safely distancing, so we remain socially connected. We must support our youth, not with assignments for points, but points of conversation, reading, writing, and reflection.
My wife and I cried this morning when we read the news that teachers in Michigan will be vaccinated sooner than predicted. We cried when we thought of friends who have lost family to this virus. And I cry when I continue to see a lack of mask wearing in a community I care about, tears that feel futile.
We can also have tears from joy and laughter. May your weekend be blessed, with poetry and music, family and faith, and forward-thinking.
I share these poems my virtual class read during the December weeks:
  • “Bad Day” by Jamaal May (here)
  • “At Dusk” by Natasha Trethewey  (here)
  • “Man Said to the Universe” by Stephen Crane (here)
  • “i thank the universe…” by Rupi Kaur (here), and
  • “The Universe as Primal Scream” by Tracy K. Smith (YouTube; here).
Join us in a thematic reflection about our place in the universe.


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