The Light

Happy Solstice my friends.  I wrote what follows in 2006, and I’ve decided to re-post it here today because not only is it still valid, I don’t think I can say it any better than I did then.  Today’s Gift for Knitters is the gift of kindness, and generosity and help.  We’ve updated the Knitters Without Borders in the sidebar.  Today it stands at $1 102 556, up more than $40 000 from the last time, and I am so sure of the nature of knitters that I have moved the goal to $2 000 000, which is completely insane, but the best sort of optimism – well matched to the day that the light begins to return.  Please consider a donation.


These weeks are the darkest of the year for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, each day we have a little less light. Each day things are a little colder, the sun rises later, sets sooner and darkness overwhelmingly outweighs light, while it gets harder and harder to take a good blog picture of yarn on the front porch. (Maybe that one is just me.) For many of us, our moods head in the same direction.

Luckily, Northern humanity has figured out a way to get through.

Christmas, Solstice, Yule, Hannukah, HumanLight, Kwanzaa, Saint Lucia Day, Diwali, Yalda. Dong Zhi.

All over the world, people gather their loved ones together, light candles, decorate their homes, put up trees, share a meal or exchange gifts with each other and all of their celebrations have one thing in common. They are celebrating (among other fine miracles and beliefs) the return of the light. All of these holidays happen on or around the time of the solstice. The magic day that follows the longest night, when the planet swings far enough over and whether you can feel it or not….the days get longer. Sun wins over moon. The earth begins to warm and another long dark winter is on it’s way out. (You may have noticed, what with February being what it is in Canada that this process is fairly gradual.) The balance shifts.

Balance is what I’ve been thinking about this season. It seems to me that nothing at all is ever going to get any better in the world if we can’t learn to share our wealth. (I know when you’re trying to pay the gas bill it doesn’t always feel like you are rich, but I’m comparing globally.) It should be impossible, in a world that is as decent as the people that I meet in it, that some of us should have three coats and are trying to drop a few (or more) pounds before we fête the season with more food and gifts, that others will starve or die of preventable illness and disease while we party on. I am convinced we can do better. I really am.

It simply can’t be that we are this rich, so far in the sun, that many of us will die of our excess, while others, as worthy and hardworking as we are, will remain so very poor that they will die of it. In 2004 the tsunami killed an estimated 229,866 people and humanity rose to the occasion with unprecedented attention and worldwide fundraising. Now, this year more than four million people have quietly died of Malaria and HIV/AIDS – and we, as a planet, are somehow pretty quiet about that. We need to step up like we have done before. We need to step up every day. We need to learn to share, in a global sense.

Imagine that your family, however big or small it is, gets another member. A baby is born, someone marries, it happens all the time. Now, naturally…as is the case when someone is added to a family, they are welcome at your winter festivities and they will be fed and receive a gift (or, in the case of many of our families, multiple gifts.) When a new family member is added, no-one declines to feed them because you can’t afford it, no-one refuses to buy them a birthday or holiday gift because the family is big enough. You spend a little less on each other person, you spread your budget around, maybe if you’re really broke you make them a card… but you make it work.

The challenge is to imagine this person has been added to the list of people you care for in some way, and to give their share to my favourite good guys, Médecins Sans Frontières/ Doctors Without Borders.

In short, and to the best of your ability, I want you to include MSF/DWB and the people they help to your family.

Canadians can give here
Americans here
Knitters from other countries here

MSF / DWB provides medical care to those in desperate situations and is transparent and neutral, without religious or political affiliations. They have won the Nobel Peace Prize and you can read their charter here.

When you’ve done that, send me an email (kwbATyarnharlotDOTca ) and tell me how much you were able to give. (It is very helpful to me if you mention if that’s in Canadian or US dollars) When you do, Natalie and I (and the family elves) will add you to my list of Knitters Without Borders or, if you’re already on it, I’ll up your total. I don’t need to see a receipt or proof that you have given this gift, because I truly, truly believe nobody would lie about this. (If you are someone who has been giving a monthly donation since the first time we did this, let me know and I’ll update your total.)

Here’s the fun part. I would like to stun the world with the power of knitters. I’d like them to see what I already know about you. I’d like you to achieve something incredible and legendary. I’d like to you aim high and make other people inspired.

I would like knitters to double the number in the sidebar. ( Currently about $1 102 556) We are now aiming for Two Million Dollars.

This will be a big job. It won’t be easy, it might even pinch a little, but it can’t hurt as much as doing nothing, or it can’t hurt as much as being one of the people in the world who needs help for a loved one and is watching them die because they have the bad luck to live in a country where you can’t call 911. For my family to manage our goal, we will need to spend a few dollars less on each gift, skip store-bought hot chocolate, ask Santa to put a tiny bit less in the stockings, and bake a few less cookies. (I’ll have to knit from stash for a while, and that’s not exactly punishing. ) I bet your family could find somewhere to trim a little so you could share too. Maybe there is even someone on your list who would like it if their whole gift was a donation, made in their name. Dig deep.

I believe that each of you are going to give the absolute biggest gifts that your personal finances will allow, whether that is one dollar -or a thousand, and I’m not going to judge that amount, or provide a list of names of those who have given, or ever reveal who gives what. I know that every family has their own strains, and their own ability to give, and that what you can manage is deeply personal.  I hope every single person who reads this blog manages to do their best. Share until it feels good – or wonderful, or fantastic. Share as much as you can. Imagine yourself explaining to your family or children about this, imagine explaining about global sharing, and then give, my lovely knitters, whatever this season means to you, and celebrate the amount of light coming into your life. I promise that it will seem a little brighter.

69 thoughts on “The Light

  1. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, Stephanie. Your new book is the best yet. I laughed, I cried and I empathized. Thanks for being you and for sharing with us.

  2. Let me be the first (almost!) to say I’ve donated. Amount is on the kwb email. You do good, Steph.

  3. This post makes me cry every time you post it or link to it. Because you’re right.
    Happy Holidays, knitters.

  4. The MSF folks phoned about a month ago and asked if I could up my monthly gift by $5 per month. I was happy to do it. What was lovely was the deep gratitude expressed by the phone caller for that simple donation. That speaks volumes to the quality of the organization. Thank you so much Steph for getting knitters (and others) on board!

  5. Thank you for re-posting this. I love your Solstice posts. I also found that monthly donations were the way to go, as it made it easier to give more. Best giving idea ever!

  6. Love the posted reminder that the holidays are for GIVING, not just for GETTING. The donation was made and my heart feels lighter. Thanks!

  7. I was just accepted into a master’s program for family nurse practitioner. I am hoping that once I get my loans paid off I can do some work with DWB. I think that would be the ultimate good work.

  8. I just re-read that post yesterday, when I made my annual donation. Thanks for the reminder to actually email you the amount for a new total 🙂 I think 2 million is entirely possible.

  9. I wish I could help. And I did donate earlier this year. But I’m currently unemployed, and we seem to have added five new family members. (Well, technically four, but number five was due on Tuesday). But when things improve there will be another donation.

  10. Steph
    Wonderful post and a good reminder that, even at times when it doesn’t feel like it and my personal world has gone to hell in a handcart, we are among the lucky ones. I swear to wool that KWB wil get more donations from me in the new year.
    In the meantime, I’d like to wish you, your family and your readers a very happy Christmas and a very Merry New Year. You are lights of joy in the dark times.

  11. Powerful. Beautiful. Thank you. I woke up this morning with the thought that I personally needed to be doing more about giving to those in the by-far greatest need in the world. It can be done. Thank you.

  12. Really beautiful. There are so many organizations doing such good work out there. Thank you for the reminders that most of us need every day to be grateful for our own blessings and to spread the wealth.

  13. I have tears in my eyes. I love your optimism and belief that lots of people making small changes can make a difference in the world. Thank you, thank you for this reminder. This is the true spirit of the holiday season. I am resolving in 2012 to give more time and money to worthy causes. And heck yes I’ll give a Christmas donation to MSF. 2 million here we come! 🙂

  14. Did you see the Doctor Who Christmas special last year? It so reminded me of this. It begins talking about how at the midpoint of winter, everyone turns and hugs, as if to say “Well done! We’re _halfway out of the dark_.” I love that phrase, halfway out of the dark. It does so much to acknowledge life isn’t always easy, but there comes a point when you can look up, see the light at the end of the tunnel, redeem even the scroogiest person, and feel hope. We can make that $2M! Hope, through knitters. Yay!

  15. Right on Steph! I always feel the tears starting when I read this post-and always thank you for it because it reminds me how truly rich my family is. The accident of our births into countries where there is more than enough does not entitle my family not to share. I’m off to KWB to share some of the wealth, thanks for your gift of the reminder and Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  16. Yup, we’re going through a little reorganizing at work this month, in which no one will lose their job or their standing, but some will lose their cherished single-person offices (including me). We are all reminding each other that there are far worse problems to be concerned about.
    I do a regular payroll deduction for MSF and have already signed up for 2012 again. Email to follow.

  17. wow this is almost word for word the speech I had to make at a children’s holiday festival at the library we held.
    Minus the fundraising part.

  18. Stehanie,
    Merry Christmas! We made a donation but a can’t figure out how to get the e-mail to you! MS moment again, I guess. $50. American

  19. Thank you for the wonderful idea! It’s so nice to see the good things that knitters can do. Thanks to everyone who helps update the donation amount for Knitters Without Borders. I know that must be a tremendous job.

  20. Thank you, Stephanie, for the reminder about MSF – they’re such a great group! I’m a field partner, so I’m giving my usual amount, but I’m always happy to see the group getting more support. 🙂 Happy return of the light!

  21. Good on you! I recently set up several of my charitable donations, including MSF/DWB, to be monthly charged to my credit card. That way the donations are spread evenly, good both for me and for the donee, and I know I won’t forget to write the check.
    Happy solstice from another victim/beneficiary of these long northern nights!

  22. Hi Steph,
    You did it again! You inspired me, and I think you also crashed the KWB donation site, because I couldn’t get through on your link and I had to try another way. I was planning a quick mall stop on the way home (Oy!) to get more trinkets for my kids for Chanukah (these kids being 23, 20 and 17, but North American traditions are hard to fight), and then I saw your page, and I made donations in their names instead. I will print off their tax receipts along with your blog page, and I think they will understand and appreciate the message.
    Happy Return of the Light! Regards, Cheryl.

  23. I just donated for the first time to Doctors without Borders. It was a gift of $100, but when I tried to email you at the address (kwbATyarnharlotDOTca) you had in your update today, it wasn’t valid. Thought I would just let you know this way.

  24. Thank you for re-posting this. This season, our family decided to “adopt” a child through a national organization – we sponsor her via monthly donations. We asked for an older child, and our youngest child (who is 10) asked that this child be in Africa. We just got our picture and her story. She happens to be 10 – it is neat to see my youngest child look at her picture and you can just see that he hopes we make a difference. As a family it is something we can do together to help make one person’s life a bit better. We are looking forward to sharing stories of her throughout the years.

  25. Hi,
    I donated a lump sum in January of 2010 for the earthquake in Haiti. I think I sent an email in about that.
    However since then I’ve been donating about $50 dollars a month since then. So by February it will be $1200. Anyways can’t wait to see the total go up!

  26. Oops, total braniac moment there. That was supposed to be an email. Just every one please ignore my previous post, since my brain is not functioning.

  27. Your posts are always so inspiring to read, and this one is no exception. I’ll be heading right along to the MSF site to help push that total along. Happy Solstice!

  28. Been meaning to support these folks for a long time. Thanks for the push. Contribution done (monthly – easiest way to go!)

  29. Every year this moves me to tears. This year, I am posting this link on my facebook profile and asking my knitting and non-knitting friends to join Knitters Without Borders. Because even if you don’t knit, you probably wear things that are knit! I hope this coming weekend is magical for you and your family.

  30. Hi Steph. Ever since I moved from Toronto to Australia I have felt that Christmas was out of place. After reading your post I will think of it as festival to celebrate our summer solstice and the beginning of the end of the ferocious summer heat.

  31. Yes, I, too, am in tears–at work. Again. Because of the Yarn Harlot’s post.
    Yes, I had planned on spending the second part of tomorrow’s half day donating here and other places, because although my life has its challenges, I have so much and must share. KWB/MWB is one of my very favorite ways to share as it helps so many at the very basic level–health. We can make it to $2 million. No problem. Thanks for your faith in us.

  32. The real light is in our hearts. I donated and you should get an e-card. Joyous Solstice to you and yours.

  33. We gave up donating once a year, and just signed up for automatic monthly payments to MSF. Easier to spread it out over the year,and we can give more that way!

  34. You are a good person, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. You remind us to be as good as we can. I decided to “brighten the corner where I am”, as I now live in subsidized housing on my government pension, among lots of folks who can use a little help. New clothes for some, financial help for others, emotional support for all. In the name of knitterly generosity and instead of MSF. I know you will understand. We here are already some of the ones that the more fortunate help. Happy return of the light to you and yours.

  35. Steph, earlier this year I signed up to be a partner of Doctors Without Borders, and now I give $10 per month. I estimate that I’ve given $60 this year.
    I’ve also taken that step with Oxfam America, and give them $10 per month as well. It all makes it so much easier to receive and pay the credit card bill every month.
    Thank you for this good work that you do.

  36. I would love to donate something, but for some reason the link for Canadian’s isn’t working for me, i’ll try again in the morning. I’m off to dream land! Well said Steph! Let’s go Knitters! We can do this! 😀

  37. I believe, as a person who is barely working and has student loans and other bills, that anyone can find change under the sofa cushions, two dollars in their wallet, or whatever, to give. If you eat every day and have warm clothing, you are wealthy. Thanks for the reminder. I enjoy your blog so much and every now and then you really inspire me to be a better person. 🙂

  38. Dear Stephanie,
    this is my first time leaving a comment. I’ve been reading your blog for years and it has brought me much joy. The new tally of donations to DWB inspired by your call to action is incredible. I wanted to thank you for your awesome generosity of spirit, your strength of conviction and your imagination. I have a lot of respect for what you do and how you do it. Merry Christmas and best wishes for the coming year.

  39. Stephanie, I don’t know if you can figure this into your total somehow, but entirely because of you I now donate $10 a month to MSF automatically. So painless!

  40. Stephanie, another regular reader and contributor to MSF checking in. We have been on auto-contribution ($25 per month) since you first posted this. Now we are retired……. but this has stayed at the top of the list of our charitable contributions. Thanks for keeping the newest, most needy members of the human family in all our thoughts!
    Hope you had a lovely Solstice. Let the light return for all of us!

  41. Will donate. Thank you for the solstice post. I bought the hat pattern you were knitting and have made more gifts for people – it is wonderful!

  42. Stehanie- I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year. I want you to know that your blog has brightened my day, almost every day for the last 2 years. You have given this wonderful gift to me, and I want you to know that I appreciate it.
    I have contributed to MSF this year, and hope that you reach your $2M goal.
    Merry Christmas, and all the best to you and your family!!!

  43. Like Miracle on 34th Street and A Christmas Carol, this post never gets old. I was inspired by the previous comments and did a monthly automatic donation this year. I’ve emailed the amount.
    Happy Holidays, everyone! Halfway through the dark!

  44. I would like to reference your December 15, 2006 blog post on my Facebook page, but I don’t know how to do it effectively. Help?
    That blog entry changed everything about my financial planning. It was a life-changing moment, and I would like to spread that opportunity to others.
    Thank you so much. Stay strong, stay beautiful. Let us amaze each other.

  45. I made a donation and e-mailed the amount so it can be added to the total. Merry Christmas to all!

  46. i love you. you give me smiles chuckles giggles inspiration encouragement roll model hero and also you move me to tears. thank you it makes me love you more

  47. The working-age adults in our family — those out of college, established in their own homes, and not elderly, disabled, unemployed or otherwise living on pensions and counting on others for slippers and bathrobes and new coats and such — long ago made a pact.
    Instead of purchased gifts, we give each other one modest handmade gift — cookies, a scarf, etc. — or a gift under $20 if the giver has no crafting skills. And, using the remaining money we would otherwise might have spent on more financially expensive purchased gifts, we donate to a favorite charity in the name of the recipient.
    This year we made our usual donation to DWB/MSN. I’ll email you the amount. We also made a donation to another charity — Kids In Need of Desks — that provides desks for children in Africa who otherwise sit on dirt or concrete floors for class. You are so right – we cannot make the world a better place without reaching out to those who have nothing.
    Happy Solstice to you and your family. This kind of thing does indeed bring the light.

  48. Just want you to know that I donate to MSF through my work’s donations website, so it gets matched. So chalk up an additional $100 to your virtual total. It’s a great organization.

  49. I showed this post to my husband (who does pretty well as a knitter’s spouse generally), and he was astonished that knitters have given a million! We are a very quiet power.

  50. I want to thank you so much for providing such a wonderful blog. It’s one of my favorites to read. I was recently given a copy of your most recent book and I’ve already started reading it a second time. Thank you for being such a creative and inspiring knitter. -Elizabeth

  51. I sent in a donation to Doctors Without Borders on 12/31/11 for $100. I want it to be added to the amount that you have raised but I cannot send it to the email address that you have posted without it being returned by the postmaster. Thanks so much for doing this, Steph. It is such a wonderful organization.

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