by Beth Medina
CEO of The Innocent Justice Foundation

My sister made me a bracelet last week. It’s a simple, small beaded bracelet made of colors of my choosing. Because I am a Harry Potter fan and proud of it, I asked for the colors of the Gryffindor House. As she fashioned the bracelet, she offered me a choice of beads that were inscribed with a word. I chose “Believe.”

I have worn this bracelet every day since my sister bestowed it upon me, along with a few other meaningful bracelets that remind me of people I love or messages I hold as aspirational. I have glanced down at my wrist to see the word, and it has become a call to action for me. To believe takes courage and faith. To believe that in the midst of chaos peace can be found, or that in suffering there will come an opportunity for growth. The invitation to believe that there is something greater, both out in the universe and within myself, that is connecting me to all things. The challenge of believing that humanity is more than what I often see: the terrible things people do to one another, and the horror of children exploited and abused to provide pleasure for people engaged in criminal behavior. To believe that there are many, many more people out in the world who would be heroes than bystanders or, worse, predators. The call to believe that I am but one of many who work hard every day to make the world better, safer, and more compassionate. Heck, I still believe in the magic of Santa, the spirit of giving and love.

When I first began working in this field to eradicate child exploitation and abuse, I remember one of our training experts, an ICAC commander, who shared with a class that one of the reasons he continues with the work is because most of the victims he rescues still believe in Santa Claus. That sentiment has never left me. It acts as another call to action, not just in this season, but daily.

This simple bracelet, given as a gift of love and fashioned from tiny glass beads on a thin piece of elastic, is priceless to me. It is the reminder that even in the darkest times there is light. There is the gift of believing and the power of hope that we can reach for, whether through connection to loved ones, prayer and meditation, laughter and joy, service to our communities, or any of the myriad ways we express and embody our deeply held convictions. The smallest of gifts can be the most precious. I wish for you all the most joyous and peaceful holiday season, and a New Year filled with gifts–tiny and immense–that help us live our mission and purpose.