Finding Hope in Action

What have you felt called to do?

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
—Desmond Tutu 

It’s been over a week since I have been able to collect my thoughts and pen them. So much is continuing to happen around us, in our nation and the world. I found myself reliving a lot of the emotions of frustration and hurt and anger. These were short-lived, however I was left with a sadness, a sadness that stemmed from all the human hurts—physical, emotional and psychological—that impacted so many, including myself.

The sadness felt paralyzing and I knew I had to intentionally prevent myself from falling in a downward spiral of negativity. Turning to hope is a powerful tool that helps me. What was my hope? The hope of my trusted community, that makes it possible for me, for us to have open and honest conversations. How did we name hope? As I reflected for myself and with community, hope centered on the simple, powerful yet still elusive principle of respect and kindness to all human beings with no exceptions. All the rest would stem from this basic virtue.

My name for hope, my vision for hope, and my energy to continue to be hopeful came from one word: Action! Having named this was a powerful catalyst and changed my lens. We shared and discussed the actions that we knew of, where and how we could be involved, and those we could start. 

A powerful confirmation was shared with me by one of my students, who surprised me with a visit before leaving to start her surgery residency at Baylor Texas. She shared a project on her dear mother’s heart in their rural hometown of Winchester, TN. They were going to work toward integrating the desegregated churches in their town. She and her mother spent the day prior visiting her elementary school teacher to plan on making this a reality. They had taken a step and acted! This beautiful mother and daughter and family had acted based on the nudges in their hearts!

It will take each one of us to look within our hearts, listen deeply to our inner voice and ask the difficult questions. What am I going to do to act? We can always serve.

Giving hope maintains hope and spreads hope.

Below is a picture and blog sent by my student’s mother. 

Bridging the Gap

By now, you've probably viewed the hard-to-watch George Floyd video multiple times. His murder has been etched into hearts worldwide, crying out for an introspective look at racism. It’s as if an earthquake of high magnitude was caught on tape, spotlighting a fault line in our country. And the aftershocks continue to be felt around the world. 

A fault line can be defined as a divisive issue or difference of opinion that is likely to have serious consequences. We’ve certainly seen some serious consequences of the divide. The violent, ugly stuff has been blared from our televisions and social media for weeks now. They say that’s what sells, right? But I suppose the real question for all those whose hearts were broken as they watched “that video” is: what have you felt called to do?

As we straddle the fault line, we have choices. Do we jump to one side or the other? Do we settle for living and loving only one side? Or do we consider how we can lay down parts of ourselves to help bridge the gap?

Perhaps the key to closing the wide divide is being willing to open our hearts and minds enough to consider another’s perspective. After all, we each like to be “seen” for who we are … not who people might think or assume we are. It always amazes me at funerals to learn there was so much more to the person than the parts of him or her I knew. Listening to the stories about a life, seeing the snapshots of highlights through the years, and hearing a preacher try to sum up the good of that person in an attempt to inspire others on their earthly journeys always leave me feeling blessed for having “gone there.” 

In addition, we each like to be heard—listened to. We crave it even. But in today's social media-filled world, I believe listening skills have suffered for all the technology. I feel the decline within myself, knowing I used to be a more attentive, better listener. Today, it’s too easy to scroll until we find what we want, so eager to jump in and comment affirmations of our beliefs anywhere we want while ignoring, discounting or simply scrolling past the rest. And as our brains try to regularly process the massive volumes of snippet exposures, our ability to focus on those around us diminishes. 

Yet respect cannot be demanded. To be seen, heard and respected, we have to be known. Relationship is the key. But the number of social media contacts, friends, or followers you have doesn't equate to “in person” relationships. Through time spent together, conversations can occur. Respect and trust can be built. Love can be given and shown. 

Amidst recent public reaction came Kane Brown’s newest recording, “Worldwide Beautiful.” It opens with the lines, “White churches, black churches. Different people, same hearses. It’s kinda hard to fight with each other layin’ down in the ground six under.”

That caught my attention because this concept is something I’ve wondered about for years. Why, in 2020, are our community’s churches still so segregated? If we are all God’s children, made in His image, why are so many of us worshiping separately? What do we think heaven will look like? Do we really believe it will be segregated?

Maybe another key lies here. In addition to change beginning in each heart and home, maybe change can begin in our churches. I was encouraged to hear a couple weeks ago that a large group of local pastors has begun meeting together to converse and discuss ways to work together to bridge gaps in our community. Just imagine all God can do through us, our families, and our churches if we are willing to unify in purpose to glorify His name and build His kingdom! 

As Brown’s song, which he wrote a year ago but just released, says: “You’re missing every color if you’re only seeing black and white. Tell me how you’re gonna change your mind if your heart’s unmovable? We ain’t that different from each other, from one to another I look around and see worldwide beautiful … Coast to coast, city to city, reach out your hands if you’re with me. Still got some work but we still got a dream. Every shade, every heart come together and sing.”

Have you looked into your heart to see if there’s any housecleaning to be done? Maybe you’ve decided it’s time to clean up your language—those slang, hurtful expressions that have been thrown around and passed down for so long. Maybe you’ve resolved to ask more questions rather than assuming you know the answers. Maybe you’ve resolved to not judge people based on appearances or stereotypes. Maybe you’ve decided to lay down heavy grudges carried for so long. Maybe you’ve decided to uncover where resentment and bitterness stem from. Maybe you’ve resolved to look for the potential in others rather than expecting the worst. Maybe you’ve decided to reach out your hand to love your neighbor. 

As we continue to feel the tremors, may we not be afraid. May we do what we can to douse the fires of hate rather than stoke them.

When some suggest fighting fire with fire, may we remind them that aggression for aggression or “an eye for an eye” leaves everyone blind. May we remember a fire needs oxygen and fuel, such as leaves and vegetation, to continue raging. So may we deprive the fire of nourishment sources by working to keep less “fuel” sitting around our own homes.

Finally, may we consider these words from Brown’s song:

“At every show, I see my people. They ain’t the same, but they’re all equal. One love, one God, one family.”

We are living on the verge of better seeing, hearing, knowing and loving our neighbors if we will obey those nudges within our hearts and act.

(I want to also tell you the picture was taken in Buffalo Bayou Park, in Houston, TX. When we walked along the trail, I had to record this “monumental” confirmation of what I'd been hearing in my heart. Similar to tuning into the GPS for directions, the guidance for our steps of action speaks within our hearts ... if we quiet the other voices around us enough to hear It. Signs or confirmations seem to surround us when we seek with open hearts. Then we must decide whether to obey through action, in His name ... or to ignore. Let us get busy obeying!)

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
—Desmond Tutu 

#REFLECT: What has given you hope recently?

How is the coronavirus and civil unrest around racism changing the way you think of self-care, community and resilience? As this challenging time unfolds, I am posting a quote on this blog with a reflection prompt. Please join in the conversation here or on Twitter with your thoughts or about what you are doing for self-care and care of others. My book explores such ideas too: Resilient Threads: Weaving Joy and Meaning into Well-Being.