It wasn’t until three different people told me that they felt like they were holding their breath as Tuesday’s election drew close that I realized I was holding my breath too. No matter one’s political perspective, the past two years have been rough. Maybe the key issue has been our difficulty in seeing one another’s’ humanity. Beyond the labels of Republican, Democrat, Liberal, Conservative, Immigrant, Evangelical, Muslim, Refugee, Trans-gender, Mexican- beyond any label there is our common humanity. Any dismissal of that reality, no matter what the cause, diminishes us all.
So when folks from my congregation gathered with folks from the Spirit Workshops community last night, on the evening after the election, we were gathering to affirm a hope deeper than immediate outcomes, or specific results. We were gathering to affirm our own humanity, and the humanity of those we might easily reduce to labels as well. We gathered to affirm a hope that is at the heart of every life-affirming spirituality. In the Christian tradition, we call it the hope of resurrection. But every tradition points beyond the immediate outcome of one’s efforts to a final future where love wins.
I took with me to our gathering last night Kate Davies’ words regarding “intrinsic hope,” and her six habits that foster such a perspective in difficult times. I offer them here as well, and I recommend to you Kate’s book, Intrinsic Hope, Living Courageously in Troubled Times.
The Six Habits of Hope
1. Being present
Increasing our awareness of the present moment and world around us increases hope. This is a good place to suggest something as simple as “breathe.”
2. Expressing Gratitude
November is the “grateful” month. When we recognize the gifts in our life, we become more hopeful.
3. Loving the World
This includes not only all of creation, and specifically in this time, insisting on seeing the humanity of others, even when we disagree with them.
4. Accepting reality
One of my favorite James Baldwin quotes: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Ignoring reality and “hoping” things get better is not the kind of hope we are talking about here. Knowing how things really stand, no matter how grim, has to be the beginning place of genuine hope. Taking action
5. Taking action
Doing something, even something small, moves us in the direction of hope. It frees us from a cycle of cynicism that leads to despair.
The road to justice is long. The opposition is strong. We will not see immediate results, and some of the results of our faithfulness we will never see. But we must keep going. It is the only path to hope.
Last night, after we talked about those six habits, we sang Holly Near’s words, “I am open and I am willing for to be hopeless would seem so strange. It dishonors those who came before us, so lift me up to the light of change.”
Then we each were invited to choose one of these habits to work on, and to tell someone about it. I invite you to do the same.
The habit I am choosing, by the way, is persevering.