The holidays are an occasion to celebrate – and appreciate – all we are given, all we are lucky enough to have. Time pauses for the sauce to thicken, for the bird to roast, for the bread to darken. It is the beginning of the most heartfelt, most reflective, “warmest” season by so many accounts, despite the dropping temperatures outside.
On a chilly evening this week, I strolled past St. Bartholomew’s Church in Manhattan, on 51st street and Park Avenue. I was headed to Rockefeller Center, hoping to steal a glimpse of the heart of the holiday season. Outside St. Bart’s, a line of forty or fifty people snakes around the block, nearly making contact with the art-filled lobbies of the investment banks littered down the avenue. All were waiting for food from the community kitchen hosted by the church. A far greater crowd than past years, when COVID-19, a global debt crisis and soaring living costs hadn’t brought millions to their knees across the country- and around the world.
On a far warmer morning a mere few weeks ago, I woke up near the Somali border in Ethiopia. I was there to visit the programs of the International Rescue Committee. The worst drought in forty years has turned the ground to dust, dried even the cacti. This is the ‘ground zero’ of global climate change, and the same toxic mix that sends dozens to the kitchen at St. Bartholomew’s. Tonight, tens of millions of people across Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia go to bed hungry.
COP27 came and went without the practical steps needed to help the world’s most vulnerable communities. East Africa accounts for little more than 1% of the world’s carbon emissions, and 70% of the world’s hungry. The COP coincided with the worst hunger in crisis in decades, left unaddressed, driven by global inaction and indifference.
As we sit at the holiday table, I would think it rare to experience feelings of inaction or indifference to those around us. We are celebrating all that we have – knowing we are fortunate even to be present, gathered with our loved ones, sharing our plates. It is a reminder even as we argue about politics over panettone that we have far more in common than what separates us.
It’s an invitation to be more generous, more loving, even simply by strolling to Park Avenue. To extend the warmth of our hands and our hearths far beyond our holiday tables.