I started writing this post last June, then put it down so I could look at it with fresh eyes later. Health issues and work/family life took priority, and I am just now coming back to it, and alhough it has required some timely revisions, the message still resonates today.
So much has happened in the last year or so. A friend was diagnosed with cancer, a colleague’s 4-year-old daughter was diagnosed with cancer, and a friend from years back ended her own life after years-long suffering with mental illness. A friend’s mother suddenly had a stroke while grading final exams for her college students and died soon after. Fast forward a few months, and hurricanes took hold of places in Texas and Florida, and devistated Puerto Rico. In the wake of mass shootings, gun violence has become a popular national conversation again. We also hear about the political mess our country is in and the refusal for people to really listen to one another. With all this tragedy and discord, we see how devistating life can be.
However, life can also have glimmers of hope. People have come together to help the family of the little girl with cancer and the friend with cancer. People try to understand menal illness a little more, and carry the spark of those they lost. Like-minded people come together to support one another as their hopes crumble in the political climate. Teenagers find purpose that can bring good to this world. Friends learn about parental love and frustration as they foster young children and navigate the tumultuous waters of the foster care system leading to adoption. A teacher friend moves from Tennessee to Alaska to find a new life with her son when she decides that it is time to move on, then decides to move back to help loved ones. A super hero movie comes out about a woman who can save the world and does not need a man to define her, empowering women all over the country. Later, another super hero movie comes out celebrating African culture, and empowering African Americans to embrace their culture. Celebritites raise money to help rebuild Puerto Rico when our government falls short. Women finally feel emboldened to speak up about sexual abuse and harassment by those in power over them. People reach across faith differences for a common goal of peace and love. People sacrifice themselves to protect others.
Most of all, we just try to keep going. Whether we try to make a difference, or just try to survive, we keep going. Even those who cannot keep going have left a mark on the rest of us. The human spirit has hope, darkness, and perseverance. Although I am not sure that most people are inherently good, I do believe that most of us have the capacity for good. The question is how do we use our good? Personally, I try to teach my own children to be compassionate and responsible. I try to show care to the students who seem to be lost in the shadows, and raise expectations for those who need to be challenged to grow. Sometimes, I fail at using my good, and frustration spills out of me. However, I cannot allow those moments to keep me from trying anyway.
What do you do? What do you stand for? What do you stand against? Who do you help in doing so? Who do you harm? Do you know? Who do you choose to follow? How do you lead? Sometimes, these can be very hard questions to answer. More complicated than a meme. More complicated than a tweet. Life is nuanced, precious, difficult, confusing, and beautiful. Let’s be hope for one another. Sometimes, being that hope also means speaking out against those who cause pain and abuse power. Let’s stand up for the oppressed, comfort the hurting, heal the sick, and feed the hungry. This is what we, as humans, are called to do. We don’t necessarily know each other’s stories, but we can learn and we can help. A very simple but profound piece of advice I received several years ago as a military spouse is to “go with your gut.” It sounds silly and simplistic, but it works. What do we know deep down in our souls to be the answer when those around us are hurting?
Life can truly be devistating. However, we must remember that we must make sure others are not alone. Hold the door open for that mom or dad pushing the stroller. Call or text that loved one who has been going through a rough patch. Tell your children you love them after they make poor choices. Tell your coworkers that you appreciate them. We can also be vulnerable enough to reach out and realize that we are not alone. Admit to someone else when times are tough. Subsequently, we can allow hope into our lives and bring hope to those around us.
As we go through our daily lives, we can take a moment and be that light for someone else. A friend, a coworker, a child, a stranger, a relative…anyone. Sometimes that light can just come from a kind word, and sometimes it comes from great sacrifice. Sometimes those simple “kind words” moments can be very difficult. However, regret from not saying them is worse. Let’s not have these regrets. Let’s commit to bringing light and beauty to those dark corners, bringing hope to lives of those around us.