Myron Medcalf
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On a recent walk through Charlotte, N.C., I saw an unhoused man near my hotel. As he shuffled past me, I noticed he wore only a thin jacket without an undershirt.

The man shivered with each step, as I searched the area for a place to purchase a new coat or sweater for him. But it was late, and the stores were closed.

By the time I'd looked back, he'd turned the corner. Then, I began to feel helpless in a country where more than 653,000 people are homeless, the most since the numbers were first reported in 2007, per the Associated Press.

I stood on the street, for a moment, saddened by it all. It was a familiar — and relatable — feeling.

I've noticed, among my friends and family members, the holiday break feels more necessary than it has in past years. Yes, it's a chance to convene, socialize and connect, but it's the rest they crave. Surrounded by calamity, folks are exhausted.

With the winter solstice behind us, it will get brighter every day in the weeks and months ahead. But an abundance of light in our own lives seems less certain.

I also think it's necessary.

As 2024 approaches, I am determined to continue the fight for that light — those moments of joy and comfort every person covets — despite living in a climate that suppresses those aspirations. I do not think the fight will get easier.

The 2024 political wave will once again create a polarizing environment as undeniable truths — such as the damage created by racism, homophobia, misogyny, climate change and the attack on the poor — will be discussed as subjective ideas. Hatred will be peddled as morality by those who've devalued our collective humanity according to our identities.

Plus, the ongoing global suffering is indisputable. Economic reports say there are more jobs but ignore the higher prices for everything from food to car insurance. For many, every day has been a battle in 2023 and those hurdles will spill into the new year.

Through the 24-hour stream of social media and cable news, the opportunity to drift into a sense of hopelessness will never cease. But we're worthy of an experience with joy, sometimes available in a windfall and other times only accessible by the spoonful.

I do believe it is ours, though.

In Tricia Hersey's "Rest Is Resistance: A Manifesto," the author said the glimpses of positivity many seek will demand a cultural shift.

"For many, rest feels elusive and there is no model for rest in our culture," she wrote.

"We must create the model and dream up new ways of being. It is our work to reimagine rest for ourselves. We do this by tapping into the infinite imagination we have as divine beings. We slowly take our time to go underneath the many layers of trauma we have experienced individually and collectively in this violent system. We lay down literally and figuratively."

I do not aim to minimize the barriers to this idea. I have friends and family members who — with the help of multiple tools — are not always capable of escaping the darkness, even for a moment. But I hope they feel supported on those challenging days. And if I fail to search for the light myself, then I can't offer the reassurance they might want.

The problem with any discussion about joy, however, is that it's easy to sink into some self-help nonsense that denies reality and tells everybody to just think happy thoughts and everything will be OK. But that tends to work more for the authors who profit off those theories than those who attempt to abide by them.

I hope this does not sound like that. I just know, even in the tough times, I need the light.

It comes from my children.

It comes from those I love. It comes from the cultivation of gratitude or a funny movie or good conversation or a concert.

I found a baseball video game this year, and I play when I have time. I'm on the rookie level, moving up to veteran soon. Yeah, it's silly. But it's fun. That's allowed. It has to be, right?

On Sunday mornings at church when I was a child, my mother and the other congregants would sing, "This joy that I have, the world didn't give it to me. The world didn't give it and the world can't take it away." They were referencing a higher power, but I always believed the philosophy could work for anyone. A joy that's secure from outside disruption. A joy that's real. Consistent.

I didn't have that when I encountered that man on the street in Charlotte. It all seemed so wrong.

He deserved warmth and joy, too.

I don't always know how to smile through those obstacles, which sometimes feel so much bigger than anything I can imagine to effect change.

But I also think the fight for the light is important for our resilience. I'm not always sure where to find it.

I just know I need it.