Living on Hope in a World of Tears

Today is Holy Saturday. Christ waits for us.

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Photo by Riccardo Chiarini on Unsplash

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch.

Hope is good.

Hope is the thing we feel when we desire something in the future, which we do not possess right now. That thing is difficult to obtain, but it is possible.

If we did not think it was possible, we would despair.

Despair is a bit like hope, in that it has to do with the future. Its difference is that it has given up the belief that the thing hoped for will ever come, will ever materialize. It seems impossible.

On Sunday afternoon, we sat around a platter of homemade pretzels and homebrewed beer. The conversation came to silence as we lamented the many “messed up” spheres of the world. Somehow it feels easier for the conversation to go in this direction when the sun shines no more than one day at a time and I am using the dryer again instead of the clothesline.

Hope does not happen automatically. Because it desires something we cannot see, it involves our mind, our will. I choose to hope.

Outside influences can build hope. One, because they make something possible. Like if I land that job, I can live the lifestyle I want…or a conversation leads to reconciliation…or a visit to a new doctor might mean health is just around the corner. By teaching and persuasion, people can increase hope in others because they show that the thing hoped for is possible.

Experience itself can give us hope, showing us the thing we thought we could never survive, that would be impossible, is possible. I lived to tell.

In the same way, experience can work against our hope. The young usually are more hopeful than the old, having so much future before them and so few memories behind, Thomas Aquinas wrote: “youth lives much in hope.” With their energy, the arduous is all the more exciting because it will be a challenge. Unfamiliar with their short-comings, they see the world as open and everything obtainable, if they only go after it.

Then, despite the efforts on the part of some to encourage doubt, the experience of the old can spur onto action the hope in the young. “He went through so much,” they say, “so I can get through this.”

The stories you tell matter.

But do you believe them yourself?

I find myself at those crossroads, feeling aged by my experiences yet young enough to be swooped up by the policy and politics seeping out of my online newsfeed.

When things begin to feel impossible, I shift my focus to asking, “what is possible?” Then I come to the principle of subsidiarity. In Catholic social teaching, subsidiarity means “matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority.” We can affect the greatest and best change in the smallest units of society.

When my heart fears for the future of healthcare in America or I despair of the possibility of productive and efficient action in California, I turn to what I see happening here, on the local level.

In our family, we are breaking generational cycles. We are doing everything we can to raise little people full of life, love, virtue and civility.

In our neighborhood, we are saying hello, dropping off a bag of leftover cookies to the neighbor or an extra loaf of bread.

In our parish, putting our passion to work in the way that works for our family and (hopefully!) benefits our parish family.

In our town, engaging and celebrating alongside Hughson through Love Hughson and the Fruit and Nut Festival.

Hope springs us to action. It feels good to hope, even though the road will be rough. Hope keeps us focused.

The little sacrifices of Lent add up. They show me what my will is capable of. Self-discipline is possible. And I am weak.

The road is hard, but not impossible.

“Hope springs eternal,” wrote Alexander Pope. I choose to keep hoping, to keep acting. I hope you will, too.

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