Ever since happiness heard your name,
it has been running through the streets trying to find you.
I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness
the astonishing light of your own being.

In these words of Sufi poet Hafez, I hear an invitation. An invitation in loneliness to enter the circle of community and support. An invitation in the chill of winter to come a little closer to the fire. An invitation to ponder the warmth that is on our own hearts and the hearts of our neighbors.

For many years in many places, on the longest night of the year, I would gather with people who advocated for lasting solutions to the problems many people faced. For legal protections for migrants. For medical care for those living with HIV. For homes for those without permanent housing. For alternatives for those in prison.

On the longest and coldest nights of the year, “calling out” unresponsive politicians and systems felt most appropriate. The symbol of a vigil of candles on a night where we could see each other’s freezing breath spoke vividly. It helped us make our point.

Hafez asks more of us than “calling out.” He wants us to pay attention to “calling in.” Using that time of gathering not as a time of setting up “us” vs. “them,” but of imagining—and then bringing into being—the greater “we.” Developing together the sense that, somehow, we are part of one human community pursued by a great happiness. That we share an astonishing light of being. That none of us need be lonely, and none in darkness. We are a light and we are not alone.

Happiness heard your name, friend, and has been finding you lately in Diwali and Hanukkah lights, before Solstice bonfires and among Christmas twinkle lights. Happiness will find us, and bring us closer to one another and all we love.

Yours in a faith that that is liberal and liberating,

Rev. David Carl Olson
UUCSR Associate Minister for Pastoral Care