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This past weekend, I was part of a group reflecting on gratitude. I began this reflection unsure of whether I could muster anything beyond “I’m grateful that at least things aren’t worse.” After all, this month, which began at ICH with a devastating tragedy, takes place in a year of multi-layered crises: pandemic, isolation and lockdown, the abrupt shuttering of many of our critical social supports, overwhelmed healthcare systems and workers, climate-related disasters, state-sponsored violence against our most vulnerable community members, the deliberate undermining of our democratic processes. The deaths of close to 300,000 people to date in the U.S. alone. There are so many reasons to grieve.

But as I reflected further, I was surprised to find a sense of intense gratitude welling up in me — for this community of people I work with, both ICH colleagues and our many amazing clients. Throughout this year, we have ridden out the loss of our in-person space and contact, the loss of child care supports, the rescheduling of much work and the canceling of other projects, rising stress and strained relationships, and the rapidly growing needs in our surrounding communities. We have been pulled in many directions, taking on additional community service roles and volunteer positions, caring for our families and friends and supporting our children’s distance learning, working weird hours to get it all done.

The sudden death of our colleague Leah Zallman on November 5 left a deep wound in this community. Leah inspired us with her passion for justice, paired with her deep understanding of how to get things done within a complex bureaucratic system. She taught us, even as she was open and generous enough to learn from us. She led us with the example of her positive outlook and tireless energy. It’s difficult to write about her in the past tense, because our community IS better because of her.

Throughout the losses of this year, and especially these last few weeks, we have supported each other, been gentle with each other, encouraged each other, and lifted each other up. My colleagues and I have given and taken comfort, deadline extensions, listening ears, GIFs, and space. It means the world to me, and I am so thankful for this community.

Community Means Strength
By Starhawk

We are all longing to go home to some place
we have never been—a place half-remembered and half-envisioned
we can only catch glimpses of from time to time.
Community.
Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion
without having the words catch in our throats.
Somewhere a circle of hands
will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter,
voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power.
Community means strength
that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done.
Arms to hold us when we falter.
A circle of healing.
A circle of friends.
Someplace where we can be free.

from Dreaming the Dark: Magic, Sex, and Politics (Beacon Press)