We have no desire to rehash, recap, review, restart arguments, or otherwise relive 2016, and this column will do none of those things. There were many good days, but most people we’ve spoken to agree it was a difficult year, to say the least.
You may celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Pancha Gapati, Ashura, Bodhi Day, Yule, Yalda or Festivus in December. You may observe some other occasion. You may choose to disregard all the holidays. We will not judge, nor even suggest that your heart might be three sizes too small. We’ll simply say this: many December holidays share in some form or fashion the celebration of rebirth, of new hope, of enlightenment and better days ahead, and of the end of cold and darkness and the coming of light and warmth.
This is the month of winter solstice: the longest night of the year. The notion of dawn as a symbol of hope is as old as the recorded history of humanity, and no matter how tough a year has been, no matter how cold the winter or how dark the night, the sun will return. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, the darkest of many dark moments is the slaughter known as the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. With the battle lost for the elves, a small group of their human allies stays behind to hold off the orcs, allowing a small remnant of elves to escape. All the humans die but one, the hero Hurin. As he fights alone, with all hope seemingly gone, he shouts over and over “Day shall come again.”
We have seen dark days and nights. We will certainly see more. But there remains more good than evil in the world, and more love than hate. If we didn’t believe that, we wouldn’t keep working to deliver Midlands Anchor, which exists to highlight the greatness in our community and bring the good together.
We have seen good days too, and we will see more of those. In September, more than 30,000 people packed Main Street for SC Pride, a celebration of love in all its different shapes and forms. For the first time in our experience, not a single protester came. Not a single hateful sign was seen. Columbia has room for everyone. When protests happened here, no matter how heated the issue, they stayed peaceful.
When the dark times come, when hope seems lost, remember the people who make sure the light never dies here. Remember that Happy Wheels, run mostly by volunteers, keeps up efforts to bring toys to sick children. When you hear negative stories about young people, remember the University of South Carolina Dance Marathon, a group made up entirely of volunteer college students. They work all year not only to raise money for those same sick children, but also to build friendships with the kids, to let them know none of them will ever have to fight alone. They won’t stop.
Remember that Homeless No More is bringing together people and agencies from all over the Midlands to make sure every single family has a place to live. Remember that WREN, Black Lives Matter, COR, Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands, and many others fight for the rights of those who are neglected, of those who are marginalized, of those who are assaulted. They won’t stop.
Remember the firefighters and police officers who not only put their lives on the line every day, but also go far beyond their job description to help anyone they see in need. Remember Columbia is home to Heroes in Blue, the creation of a wife whose husband gave his life for ours. They won’t stop.
Remember those, happily far too many to name, who work to make this community a better place to live. They aren’t going away. They won’t stop.
This is a good place to live. We lost a lot this past year, but dawn will come again. We lost many great people in 2016. Prince was among them. Sometimes, though, great things come out of sadness. Pearl Jam played Columbia shortly after Prince’s death. They played because South Carolina rejected the divisive law which caused the band to boycott North Carolina. Eddie Vedder spoke about Prince, and in his memory, the band played “Light Years,” which includes the following lyrics.
“And wherever you’ve gone, and wherever we might go, it don’t seem fair. Today just disappeared, your light’s reflected now, reflected from afar. We were but stones: your light made us stars.”
Explaining the meaning of the song years ago, Vedder said “If you’ve got good friends, love them while they’re here.” We do have good friends. We do love them. Love each other a little more in 2017. We’ll make it together.
Happy holidays and Happy new year to all, with love from all of us at Midlands Anchor.