Hope. In These Times? by Rev. Dr. Anne Hays Egan

Living in real hope over time is often tough. It’s not just the stuff of unicorns, glitter, and rainbows. Although I like all of those in their place. The hope that carries us through is what the Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama discussed in The Book of Joy.

Hope is forged over time and experience. It runs like a deep chord through everything in our lives. It’s the keel that holds us to our purpose and keeps us focused on where we’re headed, and what we want to do to make a difference. It’s not easy. Archbishop Desmond Tutu led the Truth & Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, where they talked and cried together, to work things out toward a new reality. That required acknowledging and changing the system of apartheid and abuse. It took a lot of time, where he, President Nelson Mandela, and so many other worked together. They stood in hope, and worked with others to build greater hope through reconciliation and equity.

Our spiritual traditions have reflections about how we live through the tough stuff. And we’ve got plenty of it right now. Western Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron’s book about When Things Fall Apart literally jumped off the shelves and into my hands about twenty years ago. Good thing, it’s been on my meditation table ever sense. She has no easy answers, rather, reflections about letting go, letting life take its course, being loving, and seeking compassion. That brings acceptance and, for me, hope in the process and in our mutual compassion.

Living in hope requires a lot, I believe. When I’m looking at the rise in homelessness, challenges of increasing substance use, and lack of living wage jobs, I have deep concerns. Our social and economic institutions are focused more on what sells and what “elevates” than what works for the common good.

Each of us has our own passion or calling, our skills, and networks. Some focus on doing something helpful for a friend or neighbor. Others are involved in work that contributes to the greater good. There are people everywhere that volunteer, and not enough press about it. Some of us plant where we can. And, I believe more of us sing than may admit it, whether in the car, on a stage, or in the shower, it opens up our energy.

Whatever we can contribute counts for making things better, both individually and collectivelly.  That’s the slow trip to hope. One step, and one person at a time.