When Hope is Hard to Find*

Spirit wouldn’t let me sleep any longer, though I tried. I tried in bed, but the covers kept strangling me. I tried on the brand new couch, but the un-pedicured roughness of a not-so-well-turned heel kept scraping and catching as I tossed and flopped about and I worried about ruffing up the fabric.

I did not go to my office to get my computer to write. I went to get my computer because I was worried about an upcoming appointment that was not on my calendar and I feared a conflict. So in the darkness of 4:48 a.m., I flipped the computer on and felt the assault of the bright white screen as it woke me, finally, and truly, and resolutely. Almost to the point of making the coffee. Almost.

I found the appointment in my email, added it to my calendar, and somehow ended up here, on my dusty old blog. I read the two latest entries–did not look at the dates, did not want to consider how long it has been since I wrote a thing. I don’t remember writing the last entry, the one about the rocking chair and many other things. I mean, I remember writing about the chair, but I didn’t remember weaving it into a charge to white folk to wake the fuck up.

View of a battlefield in Gettysburg, PA. Stone fence in the foreground. This has nothing to do with the text of this post, other than a reminder of the cost to human life and to national identity by harmful, extremist views.

But that was written 500,000 lives lost to Covid ago. At that point, “only” 180,000 people had died and we were still under the rule of an administration that found those numbers acceptable and that could see and appreciate and even foment the violence of a crowd as long as it was majority white and angry at all the trite needs of a confused people. I remember people screaming about a hair cut and wondering what in the everlovin name of Jesus was wrong with them. But let a majority black group march and protest without violence to bring attention to the execution of black people and that administration was able to rally the gas and the National Guard.

In that last piece I asked the question, “are you tired yet?”

I didn’t come to the page this morning to rehash that message that I don’t entirely remember writing. I came to the page because someone I love is hurting and I thought maybe, just maybe, I could write myself back into the world that still, as I said in that last post, needs me.

There have been too many losses these last two years, and so many assaults on what should be our common decency,–our collective common decency (I suppose that is redundant, but the combination of the early hour, the lack of coffee, and the uncertainty of what needs to be said outloud and repeatedly leads me to leave the redundancy alone, for now),

Yes, am tired yet, to answer my own question. I’m tired of trying to get people to think about others, whether it be about vaccines and masks, or about the skewed history we have taught ourselves and each others about race in America. I’m tired of the lack of humility in the public sphere, from those who claim to follow Jesus and especially those who say they don’t follow Trump but they have to remain loyal to their conservative values and couldn’t possibly vote for a Democrat who is a socialist and wants all my money.

I’m tired of the cruelty we inflict on each other in the name of personal freedom, as if that is the arbiter of a good and decent life. My grandparents, my parents, my friends, and my daughters have all taught me something else. They’ve shown me, when I could not raise my head to see it myself, they showed me how we are each others better angels. We are better physically, emotionally, and spiritually when we are in the game for others, not just for ourselves. We find joy easier when we seek it. We find love easier, when we recognize it. We find gratitude there on the breakfast plate when we see the hands that prepared not just the toast, but the bread and the wheat and the soil that brought it to us. We find freedom for ourselves when we use it to find freedom for others. We find liberty in the collective uplift of all of our people. When hope is hard to find, we stumble upon it as we tie the shoes of an elder or of a child.

We find, my teachings tell me, what we look for.

And me? I’ve decided to look for a world that gives a fucking damn about each other again. I want you to get vaccinated because I love the hell out of you. I want you to wear a mask because I love the hell out of the people in your life. I want you to pay attention to the evening sky because it is fucking fabulous–even when it is dark and stormy, it is fucking fabulous. It’s a fucking miracle that you get to view it every night, and our job, our collective job is to make sure that as many people can see that miracle as fucking possible.

Whether it is by being present for the grief of another or voicing your support for more humane policing or by equalizing opportunities through social programs that help the poor and hungry, you are making the miracle possible. But if helping others through political mechanisms as well as by personal choices seems like a slippery slope toward socialism to you, I’d offer that that is because that is what you are looking for.

But if you tip your head to one side and close one eye, you might see that the people who need help are also, in fact, you.

It would be great if we all had huge families and truckloads of support so that we could rely only on ourselves and our families to make it through the tough times. It would be great if all families had not been torn asunder by war, by famine, by the institution of slavery, by the salvation offered by migration , by poverty wages, by death, by drink, by drugs, by violence inflicted by the state or the person who says they love you. But families, faith, and charity will not fix the problems in the systems that keep people in one form of bondage or another. This is what we need political systems for, to plan for the good and fix the broken and help us all when help is hard to find.

That’s a world view. One world view. And I plant my flag in the side with hope and a plan, flawed though it probably will be, but a plan nonetheless that focuses on people in their current situation rather than in a nebulous and reductive screed of “FREEDOM!”

I recognize that there are many more places to plant oneself as life itself is not a false binary choice, and so I ask you: Where do you plant your flag?

*The title comes from one of my favorite hymns, “Come Sing A Song With Me” by Carolyn McDade.