“….hope becomes a calling for those of us who can hold it,
for the sake of the world…..
It references reality at every turn and reveres truth.”
Peace Cranes in the hallway of the Tea House, Botanical Gardens, Montreal
When I was little I played with little green plastic soldiers fighting each other and brown plastic cowboy and Indians killing each other. Internally it was about the good guy winning, defeating the others who were different from me. Externally it was about having something to play with.
I remember in Middle School practicing duck and cover…crawling under a desk in case the drill for a bomb threat became a real threat. Internally there was annoyance because I didn’t fully understand what was happening in the world, and crawling under a table was uncomfortable. Externally there were groans and giggles, even a little smirk of gratitude that class would be cut short by the amount of time the drill took.
When I was in college I was in South Korea when a coupe took place. Corner kiosks selling silk and trinkets were replaced with soldiers with automatic weapons and bayonets. Tanks replaced taxis and buses on the road. We could not leave the country. Internally there was fear. Not a fear of safety but of uncertainty. Externally there was confusion and hesitation. We didn’t know what to do, where to go…even how to get information.
During my first years of teaching I was cleaning out a closet at school and found an old map of the world. Pictured criss-crossing the ocean were intercontinental missiles headed towards the enemy. We were attacking Russia as they were attacking us. Internally there was a deep sadness, almost a sorrow. Externally I took the map and folded it and threw it away.
This past fall in Montreal at the Botanical Garden’s Tea House we saw an exhibit of photographs of the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. There was art done by survivors—dark, painful, powerful, helpless art of human suffering that is beyond imagining or understanding. Internally I felt a sharp pain and confusion. Externally I shook and cried. All we could do was to stand there and wipe the tears away.
In the past months we as a world have witnessed hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war, violence, death, famine, leaving family members behind to trek hundreds of miles to safe countries to find borders closed. No one wants a refugee. We witnessed aid workers carrying dead babies out of the water, and there were more pictures of abused and homeless dogs on FB than outrage for these innocent children and their shattered parents. What the hell are we doing to each other?
Last week, in the inflamed world of advancing fear, hate, intolerance, threats, violence, it all became a little too real. My daughter was to arrive in Nice, France the day after the attack during Bastille Day. If they had decided to be there for that day; it is sobering to think what might have been.
In talking with her hours after the attack, I found myself groping around for hope….trying to find it before it became buried under the mounting weight of fear.
And now these smart, loving, compassionate women walk with hesitancy and fear.
What is happening? To our world? To the countries of the world? To the people of the world? To us all?
Who are, who will be the Keepers of Hope? The voices that trust in possibility, goodness, beauty, compassion, unity, peace? The voices that call out for us to stop and think. To get control of our egos. To check our biases, to challenge racism, to make space for truth over fear. To call for compassion and non-violence.
The world around us seems to be spiraling deeper and deeper under the spell of fear, hate, distrust, despair, violence.
“Hope begins in the dark,
the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing,
the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”
I watch people all day shrug their shoulders. Filled with apathy—not really concerned or interested in what is happening around the world. Pessimism in their eyes. Others are full of anger. So much anger it is turning towards hate. Hate of people, beliefs, the hopes and dreams of others they don’t understand. We are afraid to ask each others questions. Afraid to listen. Afraid to learn. Afraid to have the conversations that will bring us back towards each other.
In her poem I Believe, Elizabeth Alexander asks, “Are we not of interest to each other?”
It appears we are not, because if we were we would stop the violence, the hurting, the fear, the anger, the hate. We would embrace each other in hope and possibility. If others were of interest to us we would have conversation and ask questions and not just decide someone is worth our thought and time or not, because of some label that has been placed on them: migrant, black, Muslim, Christian, deserving, undeserving, lazy, enemy, immigrant-illegal alien (what a term..)
“One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that.”
Who of us are strong enough to reach out for and hold on to hope? To revere the truth that we are all here on this planet together and all must share the bounty of this earth. Who of us are strong enough to hold our hands out, open and welcoming, ready to offer hope to others? Who of us are the keepers of Hope?
For the sake of the world.
If believing in and empowering hope is a calling you hear, you must use your voice. You must take action. It is not enough to feel sad or bad about things. It is not enough to engage in prayer without action. It has to be about the parts of religion that bind us rather than separate us. It is beyond political parties. It has to be social justice for all those who are oppressed, persecuted, violated, ignored, abused, left unseen and uncared for. It has to be about uplifting the most vulnerable in our world and not protecting our comforts. If you want peace, justice, possibility, opportunity, safety, the possibility of being healthly, clean water, healthy food, safe pregnancies and deliveries, a job with fair pay, to be treated fairly and with respect…..I believe you have to want it for everyone or you won’t really have those things either…because they will come at the exclusion of someone else, at the expense of someone else. How could any of us feel comfortable with that?
“Beware how you take away hope from another human being.”
~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
We have to look at what we feel and think internally and take action externally. We have to make a choice—accept what we have and go with it like I did with the cowboys and Indians killing each other because it’s what history has shown us we always do to people who are different from us. It’s about taking the old map of attacking with the intent to kill and throwing it out and not teaching that scenario in the hopes that there are alternatives to conflict and that war is not the answer. It is about standing in front of a painting and wiping tears and internally feeling that horror and externally making the stand to always speak out against this choice in the world. To always have hope that there are other choices even if they seem unfamiliar or out of reach.
Others, “the Other’s” are of interest to me. I want them to have the same kind of hope I do. I want us to be Keepers of Hope and not prisoners of Apathy and Fear.
“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand Utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.“
You don’t give up.
Be a Keeper of Hope.