This weekend I went biking along a new-to-me bike path. New trails are always fun to ride because you don’t know what to expect. It turns out that this bike path went through an area with vacant lots, a railroad yard, and some abandoned buildings. There was hardly anyone around which seemed odd. We got turned around a couple of times because it was challenging to keep track of where the bike path went and at one point we ended up near the railroad yard. There was graffiti adorning the length of a train. Now I’ve seen some pretty interesting graffiti in my time–some wholly offensive, some true pieces of art. Most of the time I don’t understand what the words or phrases mean, but on one car of the train there was no mistake. It was perhaps one of the most disturbing messages I’ve ever seen. Written in classic graffiti style were these words: “f*** hope”. It literally stopped me in my tracks. It was such a bold and in-your-face statement, yet I couldn’t help feeling the intense sadness and perhaps even despair that gave rise to those words. What must a person have experienced in his or her life to come to this point?
The thing about hope is that it’s something we always hold on to, it’s something we cling to even when everything around us seems to be going to hell. Hope can give us a reason to get out of bed when our bodies ache or our hearts are broken or we just can’t imagine getting through another day. When we have hope, we wish for something with expectation of its fulfillment, even if it seems impossible, impractical, or unreasonable. In Christian thought, we sometimes refer to God as “our hope” because we believe that God is the ground of our hope.
Yet for some people, hope itself seems unattainable, futile perhaps. I really feel for these people. I was thinking about this at Mass yesterday and was reminded through the closing song “We Are Called” that one of our missions as Christians is to be “hope for the hopeless”. How do we do that? How do we encourage someone who has lost hope? There are lots of pretty words we can say, but hope — how to be hope for someone? It’s times like this that I am brought to my knees in prayer and ask for the grace of God to show me the way, even if it just means saying a silent prayer in a railroad yard.
I have seen that sentiment lately as well and have thought about it. I often have stated that I feel much better since I have given up hope. I understand how that can sound sad and desperate. But for me, it means (among other things) that I don’t buy into the falderall that all will be peachy keen forever… or that it’s suppose to be. It also means that I have given up hoping and taken up knowing. I know that things will be fine… I don’t hope it will be, I know it will be.
Often hope is as simple as being solid in where you are. Not physically but spiritually and emotionally. For the troubled teen knowing that they can go into chapel and not get harassed or even just receive a genuine smile. That is Hope.
Being Hope – now there is a broad and multifaceted topic. Like St. Theresa’s Castle, what looks dark and dreary on the outside can be bright and wonderous inside.
Interesting to see what people think… Being Hope… hmmm
The sad thing is it’s right in our own back yard…but so many times we choose not to see it.
So true, DJC.
Thank you for your blog! I read it faithfully, though seldom do I find it in me to comment. Your entry on hope struck something in me, though. I work as a nurse in a neighborhood health care center in a medium-sized city. Poverty, drugs, and violence (often with guns) are real.
I used to think that young people do “stupid” things because they think that they are invincible–that nothing will harm them & that they’ll “live forever”. Increasingly, though, I’m starting to notice & meet people who have no plans of living past their 20th or 25th birthdays. Their lives are the streets & the people around them are gunned down and/or incarcerated at staggering rates. They’re not doing “stupid” things because they think they’ll live forever–they’re doing stupid things because they have no intention of living.
Fortunately, for me (as a Catholic Sister), I work in a Christian-based health care center, so my faith-perspective is not only tolerated–it’s encouraged! Oftentimes, my coworkers & I will sit around the lunch table & try to think about ways that we can reach these young kids. (I’d call them teen-agers, except that some of them seem to start with the street life even before their teen years.) It’s certainly not easy to be “hope for the hopeless”! In fact, any suggestions by you or others on how we can better do that is definitely welcome. Quite frankly, most of us are just getting tired of burying “our” kids. Yet, each day we keep faithfully showing up in the hopes that our presence is somehow salve for a community wracked in violence, addiction, & death, and that we’ll somehow inspire just one more person to choose life and all that it has to offer over the streets and a predictably early death.
Such a grace hope is, an anchor that grounds us. I suppose hope is shown in those times when we are not even aware of its presence in our lives. His Spirit reveals it through us… that inner light.
Kari, Your comment is very timely for me as a friend of mine just buried her son. These young people — yes, our children — live under a death sentence it seems. At the wake and funeral I just wanted to grab these kids and say, “come on! do you know how precious you are? how much your life and your friends’ lives mean?” I wish I had some answers. I am encouraged by your work. My God continue to bless you, your colleagues, and the people whom you serve.
BC, Yes, so often we may feel like we have no hope, but there is some inner drive that keeps us going. I think even of the person who wrote those words on the train and think that perhaps the defiance that he or she showed in writing those words was itself an act of hope.
I can’t imagine living in the hell that Sister Kari describes in that community, nor can I imagine how someone could possibly feel so utterly hopeless. It’s true, it is happening all around us, communities caught up in drugs and violence and young people losing hope before they even have a chance. I like to think the best of people, and I like to think that we all have the ability to overcome even the worst situation we are born into. And, that is easy to say when there is a roof over my head and peace in “my” world. But how to help those others? How to make a difference? I have no answers to this overwhelming problem. But as I go out into the world today, I’ll pray for those who have no hope left, and I’ll meet everyone with a smile no matter who they are and I will remember to be grateful for all that I have.
The other day when walking toward the shops i saw a man coming in my direction. I knew by his waveringing step that he was drunk, but not so drunk that he couldn’t keep going. But I noticed he was maintaining eye contact with me, and something told me to keep on looking as he got nearer. There was no hand out for money, no hint of anything except a longing perhaps in him to be respected, even though he had probalby lost his own self – respect. He smiled and said hello, and I returned his greeting and that was that. I think I may have given that man hope, and if i did, it was grace at work within me for normally I would have avoided him. So I suppose it’s our presence or our body language that can give hope to someone much more convincingly than words.
Ann, God bless you. Such a seemingly simple thing to do — eye contact, a greeting — can mean the world to someone. And it’s not always easy for us to do these things, especially when the people who are often most in need are ones that we’re told to avoid to keep us safe. Thanks for writing, Ann. You give me hope!
It’s not just in our youth… some of the most ‘hopeless’ people I know work in the cubical next to me. Middle-aged (whatever that means), white, decent wage, decent job… more daily privilege than they know what to do with… enough privilege to make Solomon blush… and their souls are dying every day. Their lives are a mournful monotonous slavery with no end in sight. No hope and no Hope.
Some people perpetuate this. I have noticed that in all the offices I have been to, it seems that there at least one negative person. They are just as much as killer of hope as any drug or poverty, just in a different way. They suck your energy and your hope if you let them. I’ve see one woman kill off hope in the 5 people she worked with over the course of a couple of years. They don’t volunteer anymore. They don’t contribute. They don’t laugh any more. The group of them are a misery to behold.
But you don’t have to let them. For every negative and hateful story my co-worker tells me about her “damn husband”, I counter with an equally opposite wonderfulness story about my husband. I don’t have to make anything up. I just reflect to her what my world is. Full of caring and compassion and genuine investment in the betterment of each others worlds. (For four years of college with 3 majors, I never once ran out of clean…um… important clothes. Jeremy is the laundry Master.) I have noticed a discernible change in her tone about her husband. And she doesn’t talk to me as much. LOL Which gives me hope!
It’s insidious. It’s the little details of asking a cashier how her day was and then waiting for the answer… taking the print job to the busy secretary… smiling… at everyone… hope in humanity can only be achieved by the small details of life. To cry ‘Hope for the Masses’ doesn’t mean anything if one does not make the world around them a better place for being there.
Being Hope… I think it’s like being an outcrop of rock on a coast. One may never see the ships that use your placement for navigation. Being Hope might be about standing on one’s Foundation and not moving from that. Over time there are changes and shifts and growth, but your Foundation doesn’t really move. It just becomes more solidly laid. Knowing that someone seems to have a handle on where that Foundation is can be very comforting for someone who can’t seem to find it. Hope is radiating the thought that you are in on the Plan.
Elizabeth, what you wrote was beautiful…may I quote your last paragraph? I would love to print that out and hang it where I can see it…
Please feel free to copy my work. I have many other people hanging on my quote board. I am honored!
Kari, Your work is so difficult, I thank God for people like you who face daily those problems. Here is a quote from Mother Teresa: “God doesn’t require us to succeed; he only requires that you try.” Peace.