In the Northern Hemisphere, we are slipping into the darkest days of the year. Increasingly, it feels like daylight is there and then gone again in little more than a blink.

For some of us, keeping our spirits high when it’s still pitch black at 7 am is a true feat of strength. Even for someone like me who is typically up before the sun for a large part of the year, it feels a little cruel.

Despite the prevalent obscurity, I find that there’s something mysterious and magical about this period. It isn’t so much about the holidays and all that they hold. They, of course, have a charm of their own, of which I’m immensely appreciative. But what I’m talking about is of a different nature.

The darkness makes us more fragile. It makes us quiet. We are waiting, with bated breath, hopeful for the light to come back. We huddle to face the night.

Sometimes, when the seemingly never-ending night feels like too much, we erupt in noise, to remind ourselves that we are not alone. We look outside, press our hands against the cold glass, and we know that there’s more than damp bleakness on the other side.

It’s something like faith, although perhaps not strictly in the religious sense.

Rather than be engulfed in despondency, we ignite the smallest lights. They glow even brighter in the gloom, exultant not to be outshone by brasher luminaries.

This is where the magic lies.

In the darkness, in the cold, we create the promise of warmth and light.

In the long, bitter night, we can BE that warmth and light.

How can we fuel that fire of hope, both in ourselves and in others?

Amidst the melancholy, the hustle and bustle, the too-dark or too-loud, we can cultivate a space of peace.

Beyond the usual holiday-time charity — which I’m not discounting, don’t mistake me! — I believe we can all benefit from giving both ourselves and others an extra dose of kindness.

We tend to forget, in moments of grief, disquiet, or fear, that we are not alone. By reminding each other that we are here, we can multiply the little lights, and help each other hold fast until the end of night.

If we reach out, we’ll nourish all of our hearts. If we shower the world with grace and gratitude, we can ignite our souls.

We can BE hope.

Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder.
Help someone’s soul heal.
Walk out of your house like a shepherd.