Cross-country skiing in Parc LaFontaine


We are the light

Using our inner light to fight the darkness

Terri E. Givens -
Published in
4 min readJan 23, 2024


I see a lot of my friends complaining on social media about the cold and the dark of winter. Many of us are also very concerned about our country as we enter into this fraught election year. I often despair at the direction my country is going. This is on top of all the discussion about Black women in higher ed, and reflecting on my own difficult experiences as a leader. But yesterday, I decided to strap on my skis and head down the street to my local park, where they are kind enough to create groomed trails for cross country skiers.

It was a sunny day and I enjoyed the light filtering through the trees, the way the sun bounced off the snow, all the people out skiing, walking their dogs, and ice skating. It’s what I love about winter and what I love about Montreal. There’s always something to do and I truly enjoy it. By the time I got home, my heart was full.

This morning I got up, puttered around, and although I’m a bit sore, I know the best thing you can do after a hard workout is a different hard workout. So I hopped on my spin bike, turned on Ally Love for a 30 minute ride (I usually do 20) and let her lead the way. It was a recorded ride, but it was fun to see that Lesley Odom, Jr. was in the room. They played this song at the end, which I didn’t take personally, but I see as a metaphor for our country (the US). [TW: this first song hints at suicidal thoughts].

I immediately jumped off the bike and started writing this, with the words “we are the light” in my head. Although I wrote a book on it, sometimes I have to remind myself that we need to use empathy as a tool to break through to the light. But we have to build the light in ourselves before we can share it. It’s about being vulnerable, then becoming grounded in who your are. Finding your light and sharing it is an ongoing process, and there will be days when it is hard to find.

The last few months have been difficult on a variety of fronts. That doesn’t mean I can’t feel joy, or take that next step to rebuilding my body and my mental health. I was also reminded of this quote — change isn’t always about the big actions, it’s about what we do every day:

Creating change depends on all of us who want to fight the forces of darkness — those who want to take us back to the days when women and minorities had no voice or say over their bodies or their lives. Reach out to a friend who is vulnerable — tell them that you care. That’s one small, but important step to breaking into the light.

Don’t get me wrong, we have to do the big stuff, too — making political change is hard work, but we have the power to do it. When we join together, we can create change, but it means we have to bridge divides, and play the long game. Voting is important in the short term, but issue like climate change and peace will take much more. Be prepared, take care of yourself, and think about the future we want for our loved ones.

Crowd Scientists Say Women’s March
in Washington Had 3 Times as
Many People as Trump’s Inauguration (New York TImes)
Germany: Marches against the far right draw over 200,000

From DW: Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in demonstrations against far-right extremism in cities across Germany. Rallies were expected in more than 100 German cities and towns over the weekend.



Terri E. Givens -

Professor of Political Science, McGill University. Higher Ed Leadership, Immigration & European politics. Author of Radical Empathy & The Roots of Racism