The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.
– Barbara Kingsolver
Neighbors at my beach house who took care of winterizing my house.
The news in the world is not good these days. There is so much pain around our globe. Super Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms ever to make landfall, has brought terrible destruction to the Philippines to an area already reeling from a 7.2 magnitude earthquake just three weeks ago. Thousands are feared dead. Up to 4 million children may be affected by the typhoon. People desperately need shelter, clean water, medicine, food. More signs of devastating climate change, war, issues over water, are showing up all over the globe. We feel overwhelmed, frightened at our own powerlessness to help.
It’s at times like this that I like to turn to what people who have faced tremendous difficulties have said about life while hanging on to shreds of hope – like Nelson Mandela, who courageously said even in his darkest hours in prison. “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.” Or His Holiness the Dalai Lama: “No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.” Or Howard Zinn who wrote: “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.”
Musician Julie and friend Jane Weissman with me in the infusion room
In my own little world of wrestling with my Paraneoplastic Syndrome, cancer, and my inability to walk without a walker for the last four months, I’m finding that hope is something I need to hang onto and to put daily into perspective. I live in a country with awesome hospitals, compassionate doctors who won’t give up on me and who fight for me, with top of the line medicine. I’ve just completed five days of Intravenous Immunoglobulin treatments that are hopefully helping to stop the antibodies from continuing to attack my Central Nervous System. Every day while sitting in the hospital receiving hours of intravenous treatments, I had friends who brought me food and kept me company, musicians like Yoshi and Julie who came to the infusion room and played and sang with me, and Jacquie who used Reiki and therapeutic touch to massage my hands and take away any lingering fears. So I know that hope can spring forth even in sorrow and fear. Here are a few things that have happened to me that give me so much hope:
* My spiritual directees/companions have picked up where we last left off. They sit at my dining room table praying with me, they call me on Skype – from DC to London, one drives almost 7 hours to visit me in the hospital, another shows up just before I head for the Operating Room and prays me into peace. They don’t abandon me, even though I am operating out of a less than perfect body. I feel needed and a part of their spiritual journey. They continue to give me meaning, joy, and hope in life.
* My family in California calls every day and sends love and the best warm pj’s imaginable.
* Neighbors showing up at my beach house to take care of the winterizing of the place.
* Jane Weissman makes awesome homemade food to take to the infusion room and to put in my fridge – then bravely attacks and organizes my fridge after months of neglect.
* My Physical Therapist Manuel teaches me how to get on a bus with my walker and how to get in my car (parked in the garage for the last four months). We get in my car and I tell him we are going for a spin – me driving – in the garage only – and I feel hope, freedom.
* Jane Gropp loans me her UGG boots that are light weight and not too heavy for my legs.
* Niclas Nagler stops by early one morning and cooks me a delicious veggie omelette.
* My neurologist Dr. Fisher answers all of my texts and emails – usually within 15 minutes.
* My soulsister Donna Sillan returns from working in Ethiopia and says she will be on the next plane to NYC, if I need her. Others from around the country offer to come to help.
* Doctor Bob and his partner bring 2 dozen roses and a commanding prescription: get well.
* Girlfriend Chris and I hang out on my bed eating popcorn and pondering life’s surprises.
* Bangladeshi friends, Dr. Amin and his wife, bring me the best chicken tika ever tasted.
* Another spiritual sister Jan Dyer arrives with bells, berries, laughter, prayers, dances in her heart and makes me laugh and dance in my chair.
* And it goes on and on – too much to write about – but so much to fill my heart with hope.
So I agree with folks like Robert Fulghum, who write about hope: “I believe that hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.” Or Emily Dickinson: “Hope is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul / And sings the tune without the words / And never stops at all.”
Did you get that last line about hope: “And never stops at all”?
- Are there things that make you feel that hope has left your heart and soul?
- Can you focus on the little and big things that are hopeful for you, that can change your perspective?
Beloved Creator of Hope, sometimes we come to you feeling hopeless, afraid, thinking that we or the world are really in bad shape. But maybe it isn’t as bad as we think. Maybe it will work out. Perhaps we don’t need to worry. If only we put our trust in you, God, and move forward with faith and hope and confidence in the future. Then hope will never stop. Amen.