Yes, this season can mean gray skies and the glint of the silver chip on a credit card, but this is also true: The holiday shopping season began with a humanist cause. Before the Civil War, anti-slavery societies held annual charity fairs, featuring crafts that were handmade by women. “Buy for the Sake of the Slave,” was the slogan for these bazaars, which were often held before Christmas.
What is it about this story that makes me happy? Is it the idea that we can mold the clay of consumerism to create something beautiful and good? Is it the image of hushed, corseted Victorian-era women finding their public voice? Or the uniting of two causes – feminism and abolitionism – to make a powerful force?
Maybe this anecdote from my country’s history is like the minute flame on top of a birthday candle or a tiny, single bulb in a string of lights. Maybe it’s a suggestion, whispered, in my ear, that there’s no need to sit and wait for a certain star to shine. Maybe the light I crave in December is already flickering in each of us.