In these days of post-Paris and Bamako trauma, I have only known to be still.
I have not known how to respond in any meaningful way yet. My heart is broken for all who were directly involved as victim, witness or loved ones. My spirit is outraged at all the words wasted on revenge and fear-mongering. My soul grieves for those who are vulnerable and frightened and marginalized. And as I prepare to take the turn into Advent next week, I am pondering how to practice Hope, to be Hope for myself as one on the Jesus Way, and to bring that Hope to those in my purview.
Only a few things surface in the gray stillness so far. The first is to examine my trust in the Mystery we call God. I believe it is no accident that the clearest articulation of words of Hope arise from the ones who have experienced great darkness. The prophets in Hebrew scripture hold out a vision of the God who loves and never lets humanity go, even in the desperation of slavery, wilderness wandering and exile. Mystics like Lady Julian proclaim that “All will be well” against a back drop of civil wars and the plague. Voices rose up after the the Holocaust that have hope–Anne Frank, Victor Frankl and Elie Wiesel. And the most compelling and winsome words of Hope in the grayness of this past week have been from those who do not give up Hope, who have not let terror win, and who embody the Light that the grayness cannot extinguish. Not all of these voices claim a belief or a connection with the Mystery, yet all of them demonstrate a trust in a reality that there is Something More than the nihilism and cruelty on display by the terrorists or by the capital-making politicians who seek to be our president.
Most of them turn our attention to the here and now. Who is hungry and needs to be fed here? what trash on the block need to be picked up today? who is alone and needs some attention or some help? who needs encouragement around me? and where might I need to speak a word of truth about humans made in the image of the Holy One, in all places and countries and backgrounds and faith traditions? Acting in one or more of these spheres bring Light to the grayness, and gives Hope its due.
I also believe it is providential in my own journey that my attention is being called nationwide to our practice of giving thanks on Thanksgiving. I know that when I become conscious of those things for which I am grateful, Hope begins to flutter, to take wing, even to soar. The Linns, writers of the book Sleeping with Bread, tell about the caregivers in Europe following WWII who gave each frightened orphaned child a fresh baguette as she went to bed at night with the words, “You had bread today; there will be bread tomorrow.” Gratitude nurtures Hope in me and in the world.
It is the custom in our local family as we sit down, three generations of us, before we being to eat, to share what we are thankful for today. Over the years of practice, we have shared gratitude for new toys and dolls, for new computer games, but also for shared experiences, for basic necessities of life, for everything that we have been given that makes us joyful and useful. This moments of sharing give us Hope in the moment and with some halo effect for days afterward.
My prayer is that the Hope generated by gratitude will spur me to be an agent of Hope in all the places I am called to be in the grayness of Advent, in the grayness that follows terrorist attacks, in the grayness that faces our troubled world. Now faith, love and HOPE abide… (I Cor. 13: 13a) I have been given faith, have worked hard on Love; this year I am wanting to BE HOPE in my gratefulness, in my speaking out, in my caring, in my paying attention and in my loving.