Agents of Hope
With my previous two articles on hope as waiting on a prison door to open and hope as singing the tune even you don’t know and can’t determine the words, I “hope” that I have not left you with the impression that hope does not involve any action on our part. That belief is called Fate- a sense that our lives are predetermined and that we are helpless to influence outcomes. This attitude is attacked by Cassius in his famous words to Brutus, “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars (which were often thought to control our lives).” Sometimes in the midst of difficult circumstances such as illness, financial struggles or pandemic, we can feel helpless.
But hope is not like that. It is a choice we make. It is actions we take. It is not like optimism which requires nothing but a general sense that things will get better. Hope is rather, in the words of the late Jonathan Sacks, “the principled rejection of despair.” One does not give up in the face of negative circumstances. Hope refuses to be comforted when the hoped for outcome is not yet present. Hope takes action and requires courage not optimism. We become agents of hope. For example, take the current and long term struggle for racial justice. Hope doesn’t believe that things will naturally get better. Neither does Hope believe that justice will never come. Hope invites us to work for the preferred future of equality and justice.
I can’t help but think of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. He was not willing to accept the status quo of inequality, nor did he confine his efforts to making a speech. He worked for that dream and trusted that Americans would want to live up to their best aspirations stated in the Declaration of Independence. More importantly, he trusted that equality, was not just the American dream, or his dream, but that it was God’s dream. When you combine trust in God’s plans with action, you have Hope.