This week, I reread holiday cards and saw in many of them, “here’s hoping for an easier 2022.”
Packing up hope messages, I remembered a lecture I gave years ago in South Carolina. I stood ready to speak, the “mindfulness woman” there to teach “some things that may be new to these fifty people,” advised the head of the institute. She added, “we’re hoping for good stuff. Surprise us.”
Maybe I’d explain present time awareness, the benefits of living with, of living in, every moment, of paying kind attention to the miracles of “here and wow.” We might practice sitting with our breath.
I opened, “Welcome. Thank you for coming. Gratitude to this organization.” People nodded. Smiling at their expectant faces, I thought, “Yay. We’ve connected.”
I started with a catchy phrase so that the attendees might chuckle, or say, “hmm. Interesting.” We would then build on the concept, clarify what it meant, and what it did not mean.
And so we began, “Have you heard the expression, ‘inner peace is giving up all hope of a better past?’”
Laughs. Giggles. I added, “Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron also says to give up hope for a better future. She suggests that dropping hope could be the beginning of the beginning and advises we put ‘Abandon hope’ on our refrigerator doors.”
No laughs. No giggles. Only a few very short seconds of silence. Then the room erupted.
One tall man sprang from his metal chair, waving a tome, “Hope sustains us!” He opened the book and quoted Scripture, “Ephesians 1:18: ‘I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope….’”
A short woman interrupted and screamed, “’Hebrews 6:19: We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain.’ Don’t take hope away from anyone!”
“Of course,” I said. “That’s not what living without hope means here.”
A teenager shouted over the jeers, “Wait. Hear what she has to say. Let her finish.”
I trawled for words, knowing that this evening I would, could, never finish. “Sometimes when we skip out of our fears to the hope that things will get better, we neglect what’s right here. And sometimes when we put aside hope for the future, even briefly, we might focus on a current situation more fully.”
None of it mattered. The hollers in the room crescendoed, “Yes, I get it.” Or, “This is crazy talk!”
Exhausted, I limped into the hall later. The middle-aged man who had pumped his fist with the loudest NO, approached me. “You seem like a nice person,” he offered a handshake. ”I’m sorry I yelled at you. I understand what you were saying, –or trying to say–to see what’s right in front of us, not to jump out of it. Do you see our point, to hope for courage, to hope for peace, to hope for better?”
I nodded, “Yes, of course.”
For 2022, let’s hope for pandemic’s end. Let’s hope climate recalibrates. Let’s also do here and now what needs doing for our hopes to be realized. Let’s make hope for the future actionable now. Perhaps abandoning hope and clinging to hope are both important. Wisdom lives in “let’s address the present situation here and now.” And there is promise in the hope, and hope in the promise, of “maybe someday.”
And brilliance shines in Desmond Tutu’s bow to hope, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”