It's getting to be that time of year for me to sit down and write my annual holiday letter, an exercise I generally enjoy. Most of the time, frankly, I'm moving too quickly for lots of introspection, but I've found myself in a strange (particularly for writing holiday letters) mood ever since a friend expressed her "thanks be to God" feelings about the general prosperity of life. And that was before the Syrian refugee crisis really hit the news. And I'm not saying that I don't believe in God but I guess I'm wrestling with what my actual beliefs are, particularly in contrast to the many who seem to profess a belief in God without any adherence to what I believe are the ways that God would like us to be. Not exactly holiday letter writing sentiments. We'll see if I can turn that around somehow.
And I wouldn't say that I refuse to thank God but the whole thing seems rather nebulous. Perhaps you would give credit to God for all the good actions that people take, for all the ways that my life is what it is and not huddled in the cold wondering if I can get past a European border. Surely there is no God that deliberately puts any child in such a situation, let alone hungry in the land of opportunity? Does "Thank God" encompass all the people who have contributed to what my life is like? Is God just the umbrella thanks? Is the rest of it implied? It just somehow seems insufficient. So even as this year has had a growing sense of gratitude to everything about my community which creates my life, it has also created a sense of urgency about paying back (or forward) all that I have, to help be a catalyst for others and to work towards the ideals that I still hold this country to. For me, that might include thanks to God and church, certainly family, but it also goes to the larger Madison community - the neighbors and friends of family who helped shape my life, the Girl Scout leaders, the public school teachers, the UW Extension art teachers, and so on. Perhaps saying "thank God" is really just the jumping off point which propels you to do the work, a reminder that there are forces beyond yourself and that you can't stop at self-congratulations? even though somehow the way it is often portrayed seems more like self-satisfaction, something that is earned and deserved (and thus, implicitly, not available to all people). But maybe I am projecting too many media simplifications onto people.
And that is definitely not to say that I am NOT thankful; I feel so thankful for so much. I'm willing to concede to thanking God for being at work in the world through the work of the people, or thanking God for some underlying moments of beauty and peace which come sometimes at the least likely time or place. But most of my thanks are more specific:
For this adorable girl. For her mother (my sister) and her father who share her with me.
For my childhood, for Dad (not pictured), Mom and my sister. For the opportunities that I had and all the ways that my creativity was nurtured.
For this city of Madison and the state of Wisconsin, which, as much as it seems to be faltering at the moment, provides me with so much inspiration and support, as it did when we were children with so many artful (low cost) opportunities, for the many lives it built up, for the inspiration and success it fosters. For the way it provided careers for our parents, which enabled us to do so much, not the least being getting this business started.
And finally, a huge thanks to artists, creators, customers, employees, blog readers, for all the ways that oh so many people help me to create this life. I was reading over our book of happy quotes to come up with business cards (that we have at the cash register but which I also use in our holiday ad campaign - see the first picture above). And I feel SO lucky, to have the opportunity to play a role in so many peoples' lives, to know the ways that my work here at the shop reaches into their lives, even if only for the brief time that they are in the shop.
So, in this season of thanks and celebration, I extend my deepest thanks to you. I wish you success and joy as you pursue your own paths, as well as the time and inspiration on your own creative endeavors. Thank you!