The clock just struck midnight on December 31st 2019. People are cheering. Glasses are clinking. The beginning of a new decade. The beginning of a new chapter. "2020 is going to be my year", we said with conviction. For a split second we all came together. The collective misneach was palpable. None of us knew what was waiting up ahead.
Misneach in Irish (pronounced mish-noch) typically translates into English as courage. As well as sounding mystical, it's a word that encompasses a much more specific, deeper meaning when used in spoken conversation. Misneach is a beautiful balance of courage, hope, spirit, bravery with a hint of showing its caring side. It tips its hat to putting one foot in front of the other; despite not knowing which foot goes first. While less aggressive than bravery, misneach sees strength where adversity has eroded it. It knows the struggle and is stronger because of it. It's a single mother walking home from the supermarket to feed 5 children while the plastic bags cut into her hands. It's doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.
Faced with a global pandemic, climate change and a myriad of divisive societal problems; a little bit of Misneach might help steer us toward a much needed breath of fresh Éire.
At the age of 15, unbeknownst to me, I inherited my misneach. At midnight we received a call from the hospital. Our mother, who was fighting Acute Myeloid Leukemia, was rushed to the ICU, holding on until we got there. Her misneach shone bright that night.
Struggling with upcoming exams and grief, my French teacher, Ms. Leonard, lent me her misneach when she said "take it day by day or even hour by hour if you have to. Do whatever helps you get through the day".
There's a sculpture in Ballymun called Misneach. It shows a young girl sporting a casual tracksuit riding a horse. The artist, John Byrne, says it is about recognising "the hero in everybody". Byrne said he wanted to draw attention to the fact that a young girl could be "as much a hero as a military hero" on horseback.
Much like the Misneach sculpture, our Misneach Matters care package is inspired by the frontline workers, doctors, emergency service teams, waiters and all the heroes who have shown true misneach by just trying to survive 2020. It serves as a reminder that although our loved ones know that we care, sometimes it takes a little Misneach to give a little Misneach.
We still don't know what awaits us in 2021 but one thing's for sure... 2020 taught us that Misneach, whether borrowed or lent, can be found in a tracksuit, a stethoscope, a waiter's apron, a classroom, and a mother's warm smile. Even if we didn't realise it. So, to me - that's why Misneach Matters.
Add our Misneach Matters Irish Care Package (below) to your gifts list this Christmas 2020:
Below: See Misneach written in an ancient Irish language called Ogham that dates back to the 4th century. Read more here.