This time of year tends to breed reflection. Sometimes it takes the form of thinking about the meaning of holidays, friendship, and family. Sometimes it’s less specific, as if the season is a point against which measurements of the past, present, and future are made. And all of this, of course, comes with a backdrop of work shuffling and travel schedules, jumbles together in a rush of logistics.

Then, inevitably, there’s a shift. Maybe it’s seeing someone you haven’t for too long. Maybe a loved one waits to share news until you’re face to face. Arguments come about over mashed potatoes; old jokes are brought out of mothballs between green bean casserole and pecan pie. Big or small, fraught or not, every iteration cracks our busy daze and plants us firmly in the moment.

This year, we have an overabundance of events ready to do just that. Violence in Europe set an uneasy tone, one that’s continued through Colorado Springs and San Bernardino. Protests asserting that black lives matter encourage in their message, discourage in their having to do so at all. World leaders are in Paris negotiating climate change; would-be leaders debate everything and nothing with the hope of future votes. Little, it seems, is settled.

shooting memorial

It’s easy to be overwhelmed. Though obvious, that’s no less true. If this were a different column, now would be the time for inspirational quotes. If I were different, perhaps this could be the chance to wax angrily about what’s happened, or should happen.

Unfortunately, I am one person. We are, each of us, one person—another trite but true observation. Connected as we are through friends, family, and other social webs, as present as world, national, and regional events seem nowadays, we process experience uniquely, as individuals. Therein is the problem. Therein is the gift.

I can’t say if protests will or will not bring about societal change, but find comfort in seeing all types stand in solidarity for it. I’m not qualified to judge whether or not proposals hammered out in Paris will stem climate shifts, yet feel pride in myriad recycling bins and other green measures common to the point of being taken for granted around Boulder.

If I were eloquent enough to wax philosophically on the season, individuals would be the crux. For every person that decides to harm or hate, there is one who does the opposite. With each moment of unrest or insecurity, there are dozens rife with simple cheer. Good and bad, every thing is fleeting, giving us all the more reason to hold on to it, to understand it while we can.

Perhaps, then, this year is one for paying tribute to uniqueness. Maybe our holiday measuring stick should be devoted to marking what’s in front of us. So here’s to Christmas and Hanukkah lights, whether or not we share their religious significance; to those who’ve been touched by tragedy, and to the hope that, however impossible, there are some who will never be saddled with such. Let’s raise a glass to comfort, to enduring when that isn’t possible. Let’s face relentlessly cold days with grit, warm days with smiles when they happen to break through.

via picklemedicine @

via picklemedicine @

Whether nestled at home or stuck in traffic, glance west and embrace a moment of peace while looking at the star gracing our foothills. Enjoy the garish decorations on Pearl Street. Enjoy a lack of decoration in student rentals. Have the courage to find grace in crowded stores, to extend the same patience for strangers that you do loved ones. Perhaps, in the best moments, find patience for yourself.

We are community members on one turn, family members on another, but above all we are individuals. There is value in our reactions, even in our bouts of sentimentality. However small or fleeting, entrenched or effortless, these things stay with us, define us. This year, let’s celebrate the season in Boulder one moment at a time, simply because we can.