How to Find Hope Around You

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch.

Signs and Stories of Hope All Around Us

My story is about hope through darkness.

The idea of a dark night, but the respite of looking away from our mysterious surroundings to the night sky, where the stars shine older than everything around us, older than our troubles, older than our doubts.

 

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The idea of a path without vegetation, the sun beating down, moving up, switching back along the mountainside, seemingly without end. Whether or not it grows steeper, my legs ache. I remember to look up to the top of the mountain. It feels far away. I look down and see a valley with a meadow nestled in its footprint, our destination and reward once we mount this feat.

A winter of dooms-day drought reports, untimely frost and April rain, then beholding a garden healthier than ever.

Financial hardship awaking creativity with our resources.

Lack of toys for the latest developmental stage turning a cardboard box into a race car.

A medically complex child turning into the best cuddler, the sweetest imp and the strongest spitfire.

It is all around us if we have eyes to see.

Good seasons, even if they are temporary.

Progress, even if the road is long.

Opportunities we never would have encountered had we not undergone this path that any sane person would choose to avoid.

The stories are all around us. Last week, The Rykert Trio released their second CD, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” A second CD for a trio only imagined after a severe diagnosis. The wagons circled, the family rallied and children came to the aid of their father. The Rykert Trio was born.

 

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Joe Rykert said, “For several days I was just in an incredibly dark place, I couldn’t see any way out of this. But I still had this promise all the same, for that service.” His commitment to sing kept him facing forward rather than falling.

At a fundraiser for Rykert’s medical bills, his son, Joseph sang “You Raise Me Up” with his heart opened wide. Jeremy Stohl heard it and now Joseph travels around the world with Stohl’s trio.

In an interview, Rykert explained their first CD was inspired by the lyrics, “sometimes it takes a mountain / sometimes it takes a desert, or a sea / to get ahold of me, to get my attention.”

Their daring to play the music of their hearts for secular audiences, music directed towards proclaiming hope and the Gospel, has confirmed in Joseph a sense of the direction he wants to pursue professionally, through a form of music ministry.

They share their story openly…and their hope. Tammy Rykert, Joe’s wife, spoke of those who have just recently been diagnosed with cancer, “Those people are desperate for something positive. And to see him two years later singing on stage, that gives them such hope.”

Rykert looks at this life and the good brought out of dark times. “I am very aware of the fact that we got today. We can count on today.” And so he lives every day to the full.

Why does one person have hope and not another? When times of crisis arise we have to wrestle with our past ideas of what the world is supposed to be like. If we’re lucky, we had a good foundation. All too often, crisis tears it all down and we begin to build again from scratch.

What will the narrative be? Hope or despair? Chaos or meaning? It is both choosing to see those bright spots, those vestiges of a better life, those signs of a way out, and choosing not to fall into building the story of the worst case scenario, to choose to stop our thoughts from imagining all is lost.

It is one story after another. In a thousand little moments, we can find hope. In a thousand little stories, we can find hope. In the great and magnificent stories, we can find hope. In the garden bed, in the night sky, in the spring breeze before the summer heat, we can find hope.

It is not about being willfully blind or duping ourselves. In every situation, there are many stores to tell. I pray you find the one that gives you hope and hold on for dear life!

In our darkest days, one of the sources of hope for me was the trajectory of Christ’s life. He died, yes. His mother’s heart broke. But He rose, and he must have visited her.

From now until the of May, I’ll be offering a free ebook with meditations on the rosary to walk with you in times of grief and sorrow. You can sign-up to receive it by following the link here.

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.