Sunday, December 29, 2013

Hope . . . My Favorite Word


Published in Black Mountain News, December 26, 2013 

     Hope is my favorite word. In a world that is sometimes darkly cruel and random and bleak, hope rescues me from pessimism and pain.

     Hope has come to me in the most frantic moments of my life: moments of heavy despair that dragged me down, and dragged on, for what felt like years but were soon disbursed and sent packing. Time and again (because I’m no saint), hope has pulled me out of wells of sadness and fear, turned anger into tolerance, understanding, and acceptance, if not actual forgiveness.

     In these days of world strife and polarization, of manmade conflicts and hatreds, of walls of stupidity and close-mindedness, I find hope in this small town.

At a pre-election candidates’ night at the Black Mountain Center for the Arts in October, I observed a group of rational community leaders, all of whom seemed to be of good character, who opted to run a clean, nonpartisan campaign based on their own consciences rather than blind party loyalties.

What a difference, I thought, from the contentious, soul-destroying postures of our national parties which have our nation in the grip of a nonproductive, indeed destructive, stalemate. I admit it takes a great deal of hope these days to wish Congressional leaders would stop chipping away at the values of fairness we were brought up on and the promise of a good life for all Americans, not just those who feel an entitlement because of their material wealth.

     Hope is what humans dream of for our families’ well-being, the chance to live a decent life in a safe place, the potential for world peace. Hope is the best part of us. It is compassion for others regardless of ideology and differences in values and rituals, in the color of our skin or the names we call God.

We celebrate hope at birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, and especially during the holiday season. I saw hope in the delight of fresh rosy-cheeked children at our town’s annual holiday street parade. These children, all of our children, will carry our hope into the future. 

Hope is the color of yarns that can be woven into beautiful, useful things that keep us warm and dry. Hope is stone and wood and iron that can be carved and burnished, not into weapons, but into tools and sculpture and strong habitats that can survive tidal waves and earthquakes. Hope is music and art and poetry that uplifts us and reminds us that we each have a bit of the divine in ourselves. Hope is the fabric of our lives, our spirit, our community.

Hope belongs to Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, Creationists, and humanists. Hope is Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, John F. Kennedy’s Peace Corps, Martin Luther King’s 1963 March on Washington, among others.

They may not have solved all problems perfectly – because who’s perfect, anyway? – but they’re steps in the right direction. The direction of fairness, justice, and equality. 

Hope is Handel’s “Messiah,” Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” John Lennon’s “Imagine,” and Irving Berlin’s “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” Hope is in the mountains cradling our small, precious community, when the clouds hug the crests, when spring turns them lush and green, when autumn imbues them in blazing colors, and when winter shadows evoke the mysteries of the Seven Sisters.

And for each of us, hope is personal.

For me, today, it’s meeting a deadline, completing at least one or two tasks on my to-do list, grateful that the temperature is above freezing, and that Harry, my dog, is content with a shorter walk on this cold, wet day and the house will soon be filled with the good smell of what I’ll be cooking for dinner.
Myra Schoen, December 9, 2013