Hope

“I hope he makes it there in time.”

“I hope I pass my final.”

“I hope the meeting goes well.”

Hope

The definition of it as a verb seems to have become more like “to wish for” these days, a statement of what I would like to come to pass, yet which is not really affected by my desire or words. It is a plea of “I hope so.”

I am not exactly sure how to translate this into a less-religious context. I do believe that human beings have power over their choices of how to think or respond to an event. Whatever our feelings are, we can train ourselves to respond differently, little by little over time. There is hope because the human mind and body have powerful, self-healing mechanisms. The power of positivity is real.

The definition of hope in the Judeo-Christian concept is more than a “wish” for something. Hope is actually more of a certainty or assuredness. One’s hope in God is a statement of faith that “God’s got this.” I still may have a preference for how something should work out, I still will pray for it because I want good in the world for all. My hope and belief is ultimately that overall good will transpire. It may not happen in the way that I want, but my heart need not be troubled, nor do I need to fear.

When Jesus was praying on the last night of his life he sweat blood with the intensity of his prayer. Perhaps he battled fear. He knew what was to come to pass, a brutal torture and crucifixion. He asked God to take it away, but immediately prayed “…Yet thy will be done.”

This morning something came to pass that I did not want. I prayed that it would not. It is the type of event that has in the past “derailed me.” But it is in God’s hands now. His will be done. His timing, His order, in His wisdom. Believing this, despite my disappointment I will fight against the usual fear — with His strength. I will persevere in prayer.

My hope is in Him.

My peace is through Him. And I do feel peace, even though it defies reason.

Time for Change

We frequently hear promises of change during elections. We hope that whomever we vote for or support will align with what we would like to see happen. We count on it. And then promises are not all fulfilled. We become disappointed, some become depressed or despondent. Perhaps the person we wanted in the office didn’t get elected. Avoiding partisanship is easy for someone who is a peacemaker at heart. Whomever is in office will be bound to do some good things and some bad things. Tragically, some will suffer. The suffering is not to be dismissed and one should not turn a blind eye to it. I’ve written about my worldview on this and how to cope and try to make a difference.

When disappointed with aspects of the world and our culture think what can I do to protect myself and my family, how to educate them and help them to be resilient? What can I do to try to improve my community and the planet? Regarding the latter, there was news that some of our recycling may not end up where it is supposed to, instead, dumped in a landfill. It could be true. Though my attempts might be meager compared to those of others, I will still try to recycle what I can, and investigate the veracity of the claim.

Regarding community, the other day we passed a bedraggled man begging on the side of the road at an intersection. His sign announced that he was 65 years old and homeless. I only had a 5 dollar bill but pulled over. There was no traffic. I asked the man his name. He looked surprised as he revealed a huge, sad smile, “Rodney, Ma’am. Thank you so much!” As we pulled away I called out, “Bye, Rodney, we’ll keep you in our prayers!” Later the same morning, as we headed back to the highway we saw him again and waved out through the window, “Bye, Rodney!” In my rearview mirror he enthusiastically waved back until we were out of sight.

I am not telling this story to toot my own horn; honestly, I could have been totally taken. One might say that was an act of stupidity and gullibility. Could he use it on a cheap bottle of alcohol? Could he secretly have a home? Maybe. But that is between Rodney and God. My kids saw an example that I would prefer them to see over complaining or calling someone like Rodney a name. God has the big picture and somehow an act of good, even if seemingly redundant or ineffective, puts good energy into the world.

What saps our energy? Toxic people, you may have discovered, drain your energy and may even hurt you. Memes on social media encourage us to jettison these types. We should indeed protect ourselves, not set ourselves up in yet another situation with people who we know will take advantage of us or demean us mercilessly. But rather than hate them or vilify them, try to pray for them. The energy when we protect ourselves is even greater when we avoid hatred or resentment of the other.

This morning I was putting my feet up just for a few minutes before getting my son from school. I put on the end of an old episode of Downton Abbey. As Amazon transitioned to the next episode, it inserted a preview of another show it “thought” I might like. Well I didn’t. The sudden image of a bloody murder with a woman screaming. Oh, nice — thanks, Amazon. Now, I don’t mind a mystery, but I do not go for overt violence and gore. How many children see this trailer and others like it? No wonder our children are so full of anxiety about the world, and are depressed in record numbers.

It is simple to change a channel or look away from the television, and we have always needed to be careful with what our children watch. We should warn and educate them according to their age. We can note our opinions in feedback polls. Recently I reduced my time on Facebook, finding that Instagram, properly managed, will show me pictures of beautiful gardens, amazing geodes and sublime interior decorating. It could probably become as irritating as Facebook was during the US Presidential elections, but it seems easier to control what is displayed and it is peaceful, educational and relaxing.

You may have discovered other ways to make your world more peaceful. Do protect yourself. Hope and pray for others in the meantime. There are too many who suffer and we need to be at our personal best in order to help them. The end is thus the reason for the means. Change begins within ourselves however incrementally, but it does not stay there. Like concentric ripples in a pond, even tiny changes for the good move outward, until they affect the wider surface of the pond.

A Great Man

After four daughters, I had a son, and contemplated the enormity of raising a boy. My friend wrote some Bible verses for me in a card and one stood out: In Genesis 4 Eve says: “I have borne a man with the help of the Lord.” A man?

I have thought about this throughout his childhood, as well as those of his three brothers. Some may say that gender does not matter, that we raise them the same, as people with integrity. I agree with that premise in regards to raising confident, intelligent, loving children regardless of gender. But there simply are differences in individuals, and in order to prepare our children for the world they live in we need to prepare, teach and enculturate them realistically. We may do these things differently from family to family, but we do so ideally with the best of intentions, with love and caring of not only them but of the world.

When my oldest daughter married a wonderful young man I asked his advice. What did his Mom do so obviously well? He thought about it and replied, “You know, I don’t think anything, except love me. I always knew she was there for me, and that was important as I navigated the tough things growing up.”

Loving has never been hard for me, especially for my children; yet life is so very hard on them these days.

We teach our boys to consider good examples of men. Is a great man one who makes profound societal changes, who has statues erected in his honor? Is his behavior impeccable, does he invent history-changing devices, amass great wealth, or become known the world over?

Most often not. So what truly defines him? What is the essence of him, what causes the best to come forth from him?

Some would answer that it is his character, but even that is fueled by something deeper. His world view? His philosophical precepts? His religion? Many things are important, yet the “greatest is love,” Jesus said. Buddha taught that peace was the goal, but peace can only exist in its purest form in love–certainly not in anger, hatred, selfishness or divisiveness. The latter is tragically so prevalent in the world our children see.

And so I think of my father and my husband’s father as I teach my boys. A great man loves what is true. He loves his family, he loves others–he even loves his enemy when it comes right down to it. He is afraid at times, yet relies on an inner wellspring of peace, and a love of what is right. He has continence– that is, self-control. If he fights it is truly a last resort, and it is not out of hatred, but for whom he protects and loves. He will make mistakes, and he may remain unknown, without great impact, or statues, or inventions or wealth or fame, but he has integrity and love of fellow man. He helps those in need and offers kind smiles. 

I teach them that though our effect on the world may seem imperceptible, like a ripple in the vast water, we persevere in love. We put one courageous foot in front of the other, because each ripple will combine with others to become waves that have power to move the earth.  

Agape’ and Peace

Hope and Peace in every sunrise

I am purposely writing before there is any known winner in the US Elections. Yesterday on a social media platform I posted a pretty picture of a tree with an American flag waving in front of it. A beautiful day, words of comfort and peace. I later saw a friend post a meme that such sentiments were offensive. Another posted a meme that implied that real love can only mean that you see eye-to-eye, not wanting the other to be hurt. I believe the latter condition of that last sentence, but not the former. Love of course has many meanings, with the most unconditional being from the Greek word agape’. Love, no matter.

I realize that both partisan sides feel as though they will be hurt if their choice is not elected. Both. So if being positive and resilient means you are offensive, and that it is somehow wrong to be that way, then it leaves only two options, both of which are negative and divisive. Some think that by not being afraid, the positive, resilient stance means that one is impassive or ineffective as well as uncaring. But that is not true nor is it logical. Faith in humanity or faith in God, and trusting that all will improve eventually, does not mean that one stops fighting in their own way for human rights (voting, marching, letter-writing, phone-calling, preaching, praying, teaching, being a role model, etc.). Neither does it mean that one does not care about or for the downtrodden. So why would anyone think that?

I can only surmise that it is because they are irritated by a positivity which seems to indicate a lack of caring for rights they hold dear. They misconstrue it for not believing as deeply as they do. They are frustrated that their beliefs–honorable ones–are not valued. But none of those ways of reasoning are correct.

Some have found away to muster the desire to carry-on positively– or at least to not fall apart and succumb to depression, angry outbursts, hopelessness or hatred. Those are the responses most likely to incapacitate. I have written about inspiring folk in horrible circumstances who managed to make a difference, small as it was, late as it was in coming to light: the “Dorotheas” suggested by George Eliott, the Victor Frankls. the Corrie ten Booms, the Mother Teresas. These are the examples I would like to, feebly as I might, follow. This type of resilience will get humanity through, as it has sustained it for millennia.

Peace and Good Vibes

Birdoswald, Cumbria, England

The morning is colder and grey. As a child I loved these days. I was always outside in nature. I loved the Autumn. I lived in the moment.

Hello, Mr. Fox, I am sorry to startle you on my walk.

The world is a serious place these days…on edge. How will the elections go in the USA? So many folks are polarized. Their positions are arguable and passionate. We care about our world, its health, the rights of the people in it, and the future of our children’s children. We do what we can to make a difference.

In the meantime, there is the present. There are those whom we touch today by our actions, through our glances, our smiles, our frowns. These can make a difference to others now, and therefore affect the future. We could strive to carve out positive moments amidst the chaos. They may simply be thoughts or reflections with gratitude for something good.

My friend Marilyn believes that humanity is on a positive course overall, that it is becoming more self-actualized. She sees this in waves, with inevitable troughs and problems, but she believes in the good as well as the bad, and a general upward trend. She does not become caught up in negativity because “those vibrations are hurtful to ourselves and to others.”

Marilyn was and is ahead of her time. I’ve mentioned her before. At grad school in the late fifties and early sixties she studied and worked against racism and sexism. She was one of the only women in a 90% male class at Boston University. Instructors raised eyebrows as she entered the lecture halls. Half a century later, she continues to care deeply about human rights and the vote on political leaders. Though we are in an unprecedented time in terms of technology and instant information–and manipulated misinformation– she knows that the world will go on past this November. Humanity will get through this, too. She lived through World War 2, the Korean War, Vietnam and the Cold War. We will always have critical issues to work through.

While there is no space for complacency, there is argument for rest and for personal health. Enjoy a walk in nature, a beautiful view, or a cup of coffee and a good book, a time of prayer, meditation…these provide restoration of the soul amidst upheaval. It is not only possible, it is necessary.

“Good vibes” heal the self and work out from us like concentric circles on the water, affecting those around us and the world. Be at peace in the present moment. The planet and its people will still be there after your rest. Your body, mind and soul will be healthier and stronger for it. As will the thoughts, words and deeds with which you touch the world today.

The River Eden, Warwick Hall, Cumbria