Thursday, February 13, 2014

Feeding Hope

For all of us
May we not be separated.
            Margaret J. Wheatley, Turning to One Another:
Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future

I’ve been thinking a lot about hope lately--trying to maintain it in myself, trying to share it with others.  I have a lot of friends and family going through a lot of bad stuff lately, health-wise, job-wise, family-wise. A lot of loss. And then there’s the situation in the world, such suffering.  I’ve decided that in the face of worry, uncertainty, rapid change, impatience. and anxiety, in the face of war and hunger and illness and injustice, we have to feed ourselves hope.  The media won’t do it for us.  We have to read uplifting stories; we have to be raised by the beauty of music and art, marvel at the timeless mysteries of nature. We need to come together in community, in our churches, temples, and mosques around a sermon, or as neighbors around a block party barbecue or a book club pick, as volunteers to help others less fortunate, as women in a living room support group.  We must create and nurture hope. 

In their book Putting Hope to Work, Harry Hutson and Barbara Perry define hope as “an orientation to a positive future that engages our heads, hearts and hands.”  Hope, then, must move us, must change our minds, must spur us to action.  We need to live out of faith in, not fear of, one another. It’s why in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, we can’t throw up our hands, can’t become so cynical we cease to strive for change or turn against one another.  It’s why we each have to do what works for us to look forward to getting up every day, whether it’s meditation or medication or massage or a book of affirmations or a religious text. 

It’s why some of us go to house concerts to listen to folk music (which always reminds me of its noble past in change movements), it’s why we become involved in political campaigns, it’s why we recycle and switch to non-toxic cleaning products, it’s why we sponsor friends and family in walks for a cure. It’s why we donate money when a natural disaster occurs halfway around the world or a few states away, it’s why we donate blood now and organs when we die, it’s why we look forward to being grandparents. 

It is also critically important that we instill hope and faith in our children, whether they are first graders learning about global warming or college students facing the first election in which they can vote.  Maybe, just maybe, they hold the keys to solving some of our worst problems.  But first, we must give them hope.  Jane Goodall is just one of many people doing that, effecting change with a program called Roots & Shoots. It stresses that one person can make a difference and offers youth hands-on opportunities to demonstrate care and concern for the environment, animals, and the local community, as well as linking them nationwide and internationally with other like-minded youth.

Inspiration for hope is all around us in past and present.  I was inspired by Nelson Mandela and the Truth & Reconciliation Commission hearings in South Africa after apartheid.  I find hope in His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s consistent message of compassion and peace.  And like many of us, I have a well of hope in reserve from how I was raised, in my case with a mother who would regularly rush injured birds to the wildlife sanctuary and unquestioningly help friends or strangers in need.

There is also hope to be found in media, though sometimes one has to look hard.  The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley does research into the roots of human happiness and altruism, and explains how to turn that information into action. The Daily GOOD e-newsletter from greets me with hopeful news every day in my inbox. And I was filled with hope by Bill Clinton’s book, Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World ( by giving money, time, things and skills, even in what we consider small measure, and also gifts of reconciliation and new beginnings). 

We need to talk to one another about things that matter to us. We need to listen deeply to our friends but also to others we don’t call friends. Margaret Wheatley reminds us, “[I]f we meet, and when we listen, we reweave the world into wholeness.  And holiness.” We need to rise in grassroots action because every day around the world we can see that people coming together around something they care about can make a difference, whether it’s bringing down a wall, a repressive government, or a company acting in flagrant disregard of people and the environment.

We must turn toward all that can scare, anger, and render us impotent, and we must stare it down with love and compassion and community.  We must envelop it with hope. 

The book Putting Hope to Work relates this Native American parable.

"An old Cherokee Indian was teaching his grandchildren about life.  He said to them:

A fight is going on inside me.  It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves.  One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorry, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, ego, and unfaithfulness.  The other wolf stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, forgiveness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faithfulness.  This same fight is going on inside you and inside every other person too. 

They thought about it for a minute, and then one child asked his grandfather,

Which wolf will win, grandfather?

The old Cherokee simply replied,

The one you feed."