Hope: A Duty, Not A Nicety

“I believe that God is new every morning. I believe that God is creating the world today at this very moment. God did not just create it in the long ago and then forget about it. That means that we have to expect the unexpected as the normal way of how God’s Providence is at work. I am hopeful because I believe that the Holy Spirit is still the Creating Spirit that will give us every morning fresh freedom, joy and a new vision of hope, if we open our souls to the Spirit. Hope is a duty, not just a nicety. Hope is not a dream, but a way of making dreams become reality.”

— Belgian Cardinal Leo Suenens

How do you define the word God? Energy…spirit…the unknown…a higher power…Buddha…Mohammad? She? Atheist, agnostic, or evangelical, we all look for ways to keep the idea of a better tomorrow on planet Earth alive. I have always found the above quote to be inspiring. It was shared by a great Jesuit priest years ago. And with another pretty good Jesuit in charge in Rome these days, I find hope that perhaps the more enlightened mind and social justice nature of organized religion may take hold in 2015.

We asked last month in our e-newsletter “Thinking Out Loud” (you can sign up to receive the free newsletter on our home page) to let us know where you see hope. There are reams and reams of reasons for despair on where our world is today. But we are always reminded of what author, radio host, and progressive thinker Thom Hartmann would say, “Despair is not an option.”

Hope_Hands In AirWe heard from Walter Aakert, a Wisconsin native now living in North Carolina, who responded to the picture on our newsletter of 100,000 in the streets in Madison in 2011 to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s union busting legislation. Walter told us: “We were there. It *was* a joyful celebration. I am thankful that we are allowed to assemble peacefully, and my hope for 2015 and beyond is that we will keep advocating for progress: peace, justice, and freedom. (It took the women’s suffrage movement about 80 years.).

He tapped into another hopeful theme that we have written about over the last few years, one espoused by Parker J. Palmer, whose book “Healing The Heart of Democracy” provides ways to begin more civil conversations in hopes of “We The People” reclaiming our democracy. Palmer writes about living in the “tragic gap” by which he means the distance between what is and what we know to be possible. If you’ve not heard him speak on this topic, we invite you to click here. I have found this three-minute clip to be one of the most powerful and hopeful messages I’ve ever heard.

We also heard from a reader in Indiana who tries to process her living in the “tragic gap” with the understanding of the importance of finding hope in the every day:

“I find it hard to put into words where I derive my hope. I am constantly struck by the ways in which our country is riddled with poor leadership, racism, gross inequality, hatred, cynicism, confusion, ignorance, materialism, sloth, greed, narcissism, pride. Name any vice – we have it. I worry about what I should do. I fret about solving each problem I hear of. Then I seriously have to remind myself that I am not God. God is God. I am human and limited. I am not supposed to solve every problem, but I can do something very important. I can pray and respond to small things right in front of me.

I can be kind, and courteous. I can consider others and remember that no one is perfect. I can remember that everyone is suffering from something. I can remember that I need to pray for them, pray for this world, pray for our leaders, pray for those who hate. Pray, pray, pray. When I do that, it helps me to stop and focus on God. Prayer is powerful. It binds you to God. It binds you to others. It softens your heart. It opens your mind. Through prayer, I remind myself that God wants me to give thanks and praise. That God hears me. God loves me and everybody in this world. God wants us to love in return. Once I start giving thanks and praise, I find hope. I find hope because we have a God who loves us. Hope because there are other people in this world praying and working hard to help others. Hope because we are all bound for the kingdom…This is where I begin to find hope and where my hope leads me. Again, and again, and again.”

Hope1And Jay Peters in Oregon told us: “Hope for the future comes from looking at our past— at the long struggle for women’s rights, civil rights, workers’ rights, voting rights, environmental protection, Social Security, Medicare. Everything worthwhile in our society came about after a long, difficult struggle with numerous setbacks. There are now many forces aligned against progress, but on our side, is a long history of achieving progressive goals by working together and constantly moving forward.

“A helpful analogy is that of the ‘old man planting trees whose shade he knows he will never see.’ Our work today, and tomorrow, may well produce results that we won’t see, but our children and their children’s children will see.”

Hopeful reminders often come after a little digging or opening our ears and eyes to see what’s in front of us. Here is just a sampling of what I found by either listening to the radio, reading Twitter headline news, or watching public television.

This is courtesy of the Thom Hartmann Show: “Last month, Wisconsin’s Gundersen Health System began producing more energy than it consumed, and it’s kept up that practice every day since. That energy breakthrough is the result of a goal that the health system set six years ago, which they have since met and exceeded. Gundersen utilizes a variety of technology and energy sources to produce and conserve energy, including solar panels, bio-fuel, landfill methane, and various sustainability measures. These measures not only save Gundersen $2 million a year on energy, the health system actually makes another $2 million a year selling their extra energy and the manure they use to create methane. Talk about a win-win. Gundersen CEO Jeff Thompson said, ‘We did not set out to be the greenest health system. We set out to make the air better for a our patients to breath, control our rising energy costs, and help our local economy.’”

And for those who are tearing their hair out at the thought of Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe — a self-described climate change denier — now heading up the Senate’s environmental committee, consider the following from his home state and its leading public institution. The University of Oklahoma is powering its entire operations with wind power. Who knew? I heard that as a half time commercial listening to the Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State football game on ESPN Radio.

And there was this from Dennis Kucinich (one of 23 we feature in our book Wisdom of Progressive Voices) who wrote before Thanksgiving that a weary nation must not give into destructive forces. A new paradigm is possible, he said. “We have to start talking about peace and not be misled about what peace represents. That’s where a new national discussion needs to be achieved. We must not cede, to the forces of destruction, the future of our country.”

We offer up this great piece from “Vox” that came to us via Twitter. In it they found 26 charts of hope. Bookmark the page and reference it when you need a reminder.

And finally, let’s not forget the people who do the unglamorous everyday work of life with the hope that their efforts will provide a more peaceful life, a better-educated or more healthful population or a world that reflects on the soul of who we are. Just a handful include:

  • 350.org and the ceaseless work they do to wake us up to the call of a planet in danger beyond repair.
  • Pace E Bene: They work to build a world of non-violence in a country devastated by gun violence, hatred, and division.
  • TheBradBlog: A true John The Baptist in our midst. His unceasing efforts attempt to wake us up (if we listen) to voting illegalities, voter suppression, and other attacks on voting, which are the very foundation of our democracy. No one works harder to protect your right to vote than TheBradBlog.
  • The Progressive Voices Channel on TuneIn: Imagine trying to pierce the noise of the right-wing, corporate controlled media who blast non-stop? The fabulous crew at Progressive Voices is trying to do just that.
  • Those who fight against the corporate profiteers who bankroll their luxury lifestyles on the backs of the uninsured. Just a handful who advocate for a single payer health care delivery system for our country include Donna Smith and her Donna SiCKO blog, Physicians for a National Health Program, Labor For Single Payer, Vermont for Single Payer, and hundreds more who work to make us understand that health care is a human right and that we are the only “educated” country on the planet who delivers health care for-profit while we allow millions to go without care.
  • And those who work within the healthcare system we have to help people find coverage. If you’ve never checked out healthinsurance.org we urge you to do so. The site is full of information that can help individuals work their way through what is a less-than-perfect system and their staff is dedicated to helping people. That’s hope.

So we leave you with this brief summary for 2015: Don’t forget to hug those you love and to remember what my mother always told me, “You never know what the next day is going to bring.”

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