The year is coming to a close. The days are getting shorter. But, Sunday is Winter Solstice and there will be the reversal of these lengthening nights. Then the days will become longer and longer still. Sol means "sun." And sistere means "to stand still." Let us stand still and watch and wait and hope as the sun stands still, at the farthest point from our place on earth, knowing that it will come back around. And there will be light.
T.S. Eliot, in "East Coker," he has this beautiful verse which I have been reading over and over lately.
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
The faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. Advent is a time of waiting and the whole earth feels it, whether or not one celebrates the Christian calendar. Winter is a stripping time. It is a time where the earth, in our hemisphere, rests and waits and is stripped down. It is a time of emptiness. And we rest. And we sit still. Solstice. We sit still so that we know what to plant, when it is that time again. We sit still, on this stripped land, so that we know what should fill us, when it is time.
Time. It is almost January of 2009. To me this is significant because it was in January of 2009 that I was supposed to hand over all Warm Hearth responsibilities. It has been three years (almost) that we have been open. And before we even opened, I thought this was a good amount of time to allow for sustainable growth...to hand over the reigns before Warm Hearth became over-reliant on any of us here. And before I became over-reliant on holding the reigns. To me, sustainability is another word for justice. So, handing over Warm Hearth was and is a way to create more justice in the world. But it is hard, as a dear friend said recently, "to begin something unsustainably and then coax it in this direction."
Our route changed along the way when we decided that in the long run it would be better for our residents if we stepped away from our former implementing arm (Mission Armenia) and began our own Armenian nonprofit. I still think this was the best idea, but it calls for a few more years of the same kind of support, from our end here. From Friends of Warm Hearth. From many of you. So, January of 2009 does not mean stepping back in the same way I thought it would. I am still stepping back as more and more of the decisions are made by our Armenian directors. It is good. It is right. But it does feel strange to become the one "sitting on the bench," as my dad put it the other day. The world needs bench-warmers, though. And that is my place these days, to be there when I am needed. To cheer from the sidelines. And to continue to find the financial resources needed to allow our new nonprofit time to be strengthened.
I don't know how all of these thoughts come together: Winter Solstice and the turning of the earth, the coming of more sun; Advent, and the arrival of hope; the disarray of the world around us, even still; the turning of time; the waiting that we abide within which is the faith and the hope and the love; and Warm Hearth's journey toward sustainability, and hopefully long-lasting justice. Maybe it is that it is ok to not know in this turning of the seasons. This is a dark time when we know not how it will all unfold, or what will arrive.
I don't know. But there is yet faith and hope and love in the waiting. I hope you can find it too. I hope you can sit still along with the sun this weekend. And know that you are not alone, as you wait.
May you be blessed as you celebrate this Christmas season. Today, somewhere halfway across the world, our dear residents are having a party. They are singing, reciting poems and conducting a play for guests. They are creating much joy! Somehow, that celebration is also ours.
With love and gratitude,
Natalie Bryant Rizzieri
Founder, Executive Director
Friends of Warm Hearth, Inc.