• Susan Koehler

The Many Faces of October

Crisp air, multi-colored leaf piles, and unmistakable winds of change usher in the first full month of fall. And change is a curious instigator. In times of change, we can succumb to fear and discomfort, or we can awaken with hope and possibility. October gives us a choice.


In many ways, October is a quiet month, nestled between the official end of summer and the start to the holiday season. Perhaps that’s why it became the national month of so many worthy topics of awareness and observance. October is the national month of many familiar “P” words. No, not politics, partisanship, polarization, and foolish pride; October is the month to honor and observe pizza, popcorn, pasta, pork, pretzels, and pickled peppers. Go ahead. Look it up.


October is also the month of pink. As a #survivor, Breast Cancer Awareness month is near and dear to my heart. The bump in funds raised during the month of October fuels important research that has led to targeted therapies and an increased survival rate. A recent study published by the American Cancer Society reports that even though we have work to do among many demographic groups, the number of women dying from breast cancer has dropped by some 40% over the past 25 years. One in eight women is still being diagnosed, but the survival rate is markedly higher thanks to early detection and breakthroughs in research. So, if October creates a windfall for research and reminds even one woman to #getyourmammogram, then the pervasiveness of pink has produced hope and possibility.


While they might not be as pervasive, other October awareness efforts are aimed at important physical, mental, and social health issues. October is Dental Health Month, when free toothbrushes and demonstrations in proper brushing techniques flood classrooms. It’s Bullying Prevention Month, highlighting efforts to promote kindness and inclusion over aggressiveness and exclusion (which perhaps should be the focus of every month). October is also Depression Education and Awareness Month, a time to shed light on mental health issues that are too often kept in the dark. Truly, this effort at destigmatizing personal burdens and promoting available resources is brimming with hope and possibility.


Animals have not been excluded from the October parade. In many religious traditions, October 4 is celebrated as the Feast of St. Francis, when pets are blessed and all of creation becomes a focus of prayer. Perhaps this is why October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, Bat Appreciation Month, and Squirrel Awareness Month (not to be confused with Squirrel Awareness Day, which occurs in January). And as if all these observances were not enough to get you excited about this month....


October is National Book Month. What more powerful agents of change can we find than books? At the very least, books give us permission to escape reality and enter a fictional world that has been carefully designed by the author’s hand. At their best, books offer us the vicarious experience needed for developing empathy, gaining insight, and seeing hope and possibility amid conflict and strife. Through books, we learn about everything from pizza to popcorn, from dental health to mental health, from St. Francis to squirrels...from fear and discomfort to hope and possibility.


October is also National Cookie Month, so perhaps you’d like to curl up with a good book and a good cookie. And since it’s National Self-Promotion Month (again, you can look that up), I would be remiss in not suggesting that one of those books be Dahlia in Bloom if you’re a fan of historical fiction, or if you like mysteries, Nobody Kills Uncle Buster And Gets Away With It. As with most books, you can buy them with a click, or if you want a true book lover’s experience, request them from your local independent bookstore. I’ll leave the cookies to you.


My wish for October is that we choose to embrace change with a sense of hope and possibility. How lovely to imagine a light in the darkness, a beautiful outcome from a messy situation, a new dawn on the horizon. No one says it better than the spunky heroine of L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables: “I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”


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