Keeping Our Hope

Mitchell Hamline student, Laurel Blanchard, offers these reflections on hope and where she finds it. (And if you’re just joining us, check out http://profgrose.com/critical-lawyering-in-todays-world/ for a description of the class.)

In a recent class session, considering Bryan Stevenson’s work around on for justice, we discussed the difficulty of existing in our world today; and that in order to prevent living in complete despair (both as humans and as attorneys) we must hold on to our hope — to something which reassures us everything will be OK. This discussion later resurfaced for me in an unexpected way.

A couple evenings ago I was listening to the song “Someday at Christmas” by Stevie Wonder. As the song played I meditated on the lyrics. I was overwhelmed at the aspiration to one day live in a world where “all men are free.”

How hopeful these lyrics must have been 50 years ago when the song was released by Stevie Wonder. I imagine a glimmer of hope blooming in Stevie’s mind while these dreams danced about in the form of piano notes. Perhaps a fog of peace gently fills the air each time he plays this song. But, sadly, “Someday” has not arrived. Will it ever? “No hungry children, and no empty hand,” the song continues. I wouldn’t have to go far to be reminded that this ideal has not yet been realized.

Yet tucked inside this whirlwind of sweet aspiration that is “Someday at Christmas” is a confident assurance. Ah, yes, as the song continues I dare to dream that “maybe not in time for you and me, but someday at Christmas time” …our world will be a better place.

I’ve heard this song a dozen times. But never has it spoken to me as it did in this moment. If “Someday (fill in the blank)” is our hope, then how do we reconcile our human need for assurance that everything will be “OK” with the dark reality in which we live?

Honestly, I don’t think we do. And I don’t think we should try.

The fact of the matter is that humankind is self-destructive on its own. We just are. (Hello, the ice caps are actually melting.) So instead we ought to look to hope to bridge the gap between our needs as fragile humans and our reality.

To be sure, this is not to minimize our reality nor to satisfy our need for assurance. Instead this bridge serves as a way to live in between the two. To live in the tension. Why? Because we have no other choice. In this very moment nothing is getting better. And for now we will continue to live in this moment where the world perpetuates its own demise. It’s the human condition. We must find a way to live in the tension.

And you know what? Maybe that’s all right.

Maybe keeping our hope is not about “Someday” ever actually arriving. Perhaps in this world of incessant doom, hope is all about looking onward to “Someday” with faithful assurance that it will come, but never expecting to live in it.

If we expect otherwise I dare to say that we are lying to ourselves. For as long as we roam the earth I don’t believe that we will see world peace. If our world has existed for countless lifetimes and has yet to maintain a complete absence of evil, the odds of change are undeniably bleak. But in order to move from a place of despair, into the tension, we must recognize that on our own we are prone to chaos and destruction.

And this is why we need hope.

For me, my hope rests in the belief that I will one day live in peace – in heaven with Christ where there will be no more death, no crying, and no pain. This doesn’t have to be your hope. This is not a plug for Christianity. I’m simply expressing the place from which my relief comes. I live with hope. I live in the tension. I’ve not reconciled my need with my reality because the two are mutually exclusive. I’m merely living in between the two.

I encourage you to find a place of hope, in whatever season you’re currently living. We can’t hedge our bets on world peace, but we also can’t live with our feet in the sinking sand that is the chaos around us. We must find a way to live in the tension. And we must do our parts to sow seeds in contribution to “Someday,” whether or not we believe that it will ever come. Quite honestly, I’m OK with that . . . and I hope that you are too.

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