There seems to be an awful lot of reasons to feel a loss of hope these days. Or is it just me?
Last weekend I stole a meme from a friend on Facebook that shows a Twitter conversation with a question posed: “What is one thing that has become clearer as you have gotten older?” (edited for grammar) with the response: “Why the Grinch wanted to live alone with his dog.”
It is funny, and my friends and I have enjoyed laughing about it and speculating who I was thinking of when I shared it, but I honestly shared it because I had a moment of thinking that the Grinch might have been on to something. It made me wonder what the Whos in Whoville were like when the Grinch grumpily retreated to icy isolation and began his descent into abject disdain for others. Surely there was some catalyst for the choice. If the Whoville residents were able to warm his cold, hard, tiny heart with their display of selfless, loving and unified behavior, how were they acting when he decided to run for the hills?
All I can say is thank goodness he had a dog. Of course, he didn’t really appreciate poor little Max until he learned the error of his heartless ways. He might have been a happier man if he’d been able to accept the unconditional love that Max offered. I love my cats, but my dogs and their ceaseless adoration would be far better comfort in the absence of any human contact. Heck, my dogs are better company than half the humans I am in contact with already! OK, maybe not really half, but close.
It has been easy to feel a sense of despair in the state of our union this week as we have watched the horrific multiple mass shootings unfold on the national stage. I cannot imagine what it was like to experience those incidents and I wouldn’t wish such a tragedy on my worst enemy. However, we sure are quick to speak ill wishes for our perceived enemies these days, and it is pretty clear that such hatred has factored into the very events in question.
I find myself over the last couple of weeks with an old Don Williams song running through my head. I haven’t heard it in years, but used to love the simple melodic truth of the tune.
“Lord, I hope this day is good
I’m feelin’ empty and misunderstood
I should be thankful Lord, I know I should
But Lord, I hope this day is good”
Feeling empty and misunderstood seems to be a prevalent perspective these days. “We” don’t understand how “they” can’t understand what we know to be true, and the circle of blame goes ‘round and ‘round. How do we break out of the cycle?
In the midst of these distant tragedies, I have watched people that I know experience devastating losses closer to home in equally sudden and unforeseen ways. It has been so heartbreaking to witness their pain. One friend lost his daughter, another lost her sister and yet another lost her cousin; all unexpected, all devastating for the families and friends and all tragically testifying to how precious we really are to each other. We should be thankful Lord, we know we should, but too often we forget that we are all in this together. But, this week has been a good reminder.
In reading about hope I discovered a quote by President Woodrow Wilson from a speech he made at Swarthmore College in 1913. It is interesting to consider some of the events that preceded the address. Earlier that year, the 16th amendment, which established a federal income tax, was ratified; the Woolworth building, the tallest in New York at the time, was completed; Grand Central Station reopened as the largest train station in the world, and the Ford Corp. was on the verge of opening the first moving assembly line. Wilson had just become president that year and, only 15 days before this speech, he had triggered the explosion of the Gamboa Dike, ending construction on the Panama Canal.
There was a great deal of promise on the horizon at the time, and in his speech intent on inspiring students to great success, Wilson said, “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” In a time of great hope and potential, it is easy to imagine our potential to build great things for the benefit of all. It is when the future is dim that we are driven to protect what little we see as “ours,” and yet that is the very mindset from which we impoverish ourselves.
It is easy to imagine escaping to isolation with our faithful and unexpectant companions, but now is the time to come together and to simply hope against hope that we can make a good day for ourselves and others. Is it possible to imagine such unity as the Whos who won the heart of the cynical grouch that was the Grinch? Lord, we can only hope, no matter how empty and misunderstood we might feel.