This is a post that I wrote in April 2008…but I think it was meant to be read during times like these.
I had a professor this semester who was incredibly inspiring. Those close to me have undoubtedly heard FAR too many stories about ‘Cabbage Man”. I feel pretty sure that his class was the major reason that I ended up at Waterloo. In our last class, he told us that if we didn’t remember anything that we had learned from the class (as if that would be possible?!), he told us that he hoped that left the class with a sense of hope. He told us that one of the biggest problems that any social justice organization or social movement has is trying to convince people that they CAN make a difference- that even one person has the capability to alter the trajectory of the world- actually. Cabbage man told us three personal stories of his where he saw hope- one involved a vigil he was involved in in a small Mexican town where 45 people had been massacred while fasting and praying for peace. He showed us a photo of the vigil, where the people lit 45 candles in memory of their slain loved ones. The image of the candles was moving. He told us about how he believes that hope and faith can illuminate injustice in the world and can call out the darkness.
Similarly, Cabbage Man explained that hope is more complex than simple optimism. He told us a beautiful story about a Priest that he met when he was in Iraq about a month before the 2003 war began. The Priest was talking about how when the Gulf war started and bombs began to be dropped, he prayed that God would tell him what he was to do. The priest told Cabbage Man that he had an overwhelming feeling that he should begin to make candles….so he did. By night he made candles and by day he handed them out to the locals so that amidst the bombing and violence “at least the would have light”. Referring to the then imminent “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, the Priest talked about how now, he felt he needed to make a candle a meter high so that it could burn till the war was over. Unfortunately, the war has lasted far longer than he expected. The point of the story, is that we need long lasting optimism. Hope means being in it for the long haul. We need people who are willing to make and burn candles until violence end and peace reigns.
Finally, Cabbage Man told us that hopes brings people together. He told us a story of how people in Kitchener met nightly to light candles for three CTP members who were held hostage in Iraq. Each night strangers came together to pray and light candles – but night after night the people at the vigil slowly built relationships and became friends. Hope brings people together, even in times of despair. Sometimes hope can seem like such a hoaky concept- wishy washy, or lacking real meaning. But I have moments where I am overwhelmed by the hope and grace in the world…and usually they happen in the most random places. Like I mentioned, in Cabbage Man’s class I learned about a lot of people who were doing amazing and hopeful things in the world, like the St. Patrick’s Four. But tonight, I was watching silly Home Extreme Makeover (I think that is what it’s called). This show is where really deserving families receive a new home. And tonight, as I watched this show, I was so moved watching the family see their new home. It was so powerful because the families were so moved by grace, generosity, love and were just so unbelievably thankful. I realize that it’s tv- but the people are real. Hope depends on memory– it seems counter intuitive, as hope seems to mean looking towards the future, but actually, in order to sustain hope we must draw on and remember the good and beautiful things in the past that have inspired us and helped us to believe in beauty, love and goodness. I think this is why God tells us tt “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil 4:8). So, remember the moments when you felt most alive, when you saw pure goodness and beauty- and dwell on those things…and have hope. Even if those memories include some sweet sweet home makeover reality tv.