Good Will

I’m writing this on the Solstice, the shortest day of the year, but what’s really taking up emotional room for my clients, my friends, and me…is Christmas. Whether or not you celebrate this particular holiday, whether or not you’re Christian, unless you’ve been living under a rock you, by now, are inundated by the cheer, albeit sometimes false, of this Currier and Ives season.

It is inescapable. The expectation, like a strange shared delusion, that families are wonderful, that bounty has been restored, that peace has already been earned. From a client of mine who cannot go home to his family, rejected for who he is, to another who must bite down on the words she wants to say when a colleague expresses envy at the proximity of her siblings, more often then not we experience the dissonance between how things should be, and how they are for us.

But that has nothing to do with the season marking a return to the light. Whether its Solstice and its Nordic expression, Yule, Hanukkah’s menorah marking the miracle of a light refusing to die, Kwanzaa’s candles commemorating principles for living…or Christianity’s celebration of the birth of a savior, the recognition of a craving for light, and regardless of non/belief in God, some sweet and powerful Light is international and intercultural. In my loneliest hours, I crave luminosity. Its vibrancy, its energy, its warmth. I seek inspiration. I seek a spark. Not only to energize myself, but to share that with others. I would like to think of myself as a person of good will.

“Good will to all men/mankind” is a misquote. Scholars dispute how this came about, but the most logical explanation is that the first widely printed version of the bible, King James, had good but political intentions. The actual translation is “Peace to all men (sic) of good will.” It is selective, perhaps. It feels descriptive to me: good will is a prerequisite to peace. Not a sleepy peace, nor relaxed…a hard-won peace. It is not a constant, this peace, it is a gift that comes and goes as the flickering of a candle. It is a moment in which generous intentions, even those that require personal sacrifice, bring about a softness of the heart that turns inward towards the self as well as outward towards the world…and in that moment, there is peace. Grand gestures are lovely, but moments of kindness, of accommodation, of patience towards strangers and vulnerable people shine brightly too.

Maya Angelou wrote a beautiful poem expressing this far better than I ever could:

“In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.”

For full poem, read more:


May this season, and the coming year bring you peace. And may you do what you can to bring that peace to the world.