A Realist’s Hope. (Sunday Thoughts #43)

MARK 12:31-33

31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

1 JOHN 3:18

18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

It’s dark here still–the sun on its way up chasing the moon. The sky is a purple gray, the color of a bruise. The whole world feels bruised. My children and husband are still sleeping while I think about all the things that have occurred in our country and around the world in recent days.

-Men and women run for cover in Las Vegas, some of them holding infants or pushing others in wheelchairs who cannot navigate the debris. One man loaded to the ceiling with guns destroys hundreds of families.

-The devastation of Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria told firsthand to me by a woman on the playground who had fled here, to Tennessee, to wait as her country pieces itself back together as best it can. It is just one of a line of storms that has picked at our coastlines like a fraying hem.

-Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, is ridiculed during her conference speech for coughing. Hecklers and the media called the coughing fit a symbol of her weakening power and claimed it would mark the end of her career. Behind her, the party slogan “Building a Country that Works for Everyone” falls off letter by letter.

It’s too much. How do you summon the fighting spirit after so many rounds lost to the chaos?

I like actionable steps. Follow point A to point B to sub-category 1 and you will find the solution. John compels us to love with “actions and in truth.” But the recent events feel too big and distant to reach. And it also seems like the world has had an attitude shift over the last decade that I cannot understand. The meanness of the world takes me unawares.

And yet…if I am to love my neighbor, those next door and those across the world, I think it has to start with my attitude. I think the first actionable step needs to be a shift of my own mentality from fear and sadness to hope. I don’t mean blind hope in the face of a tidal wave of badness. I mean hope that I can do one thing each day to ease the burden of those around me. That is a measurable hope. It means teaching my children to care about what is going on in the world and talking through their fears. It means letting someone go ahead of me in traffic. It means sympathizing with the mother in the park who is counting to five because her child will not come when she calls. It means asking my husband about work even when I don’t understand a thing he does. It means looking the boy in the eye who is bagging my groceries and saying thank you. It’s a hundred small things or just one. One is enough to make a start.

It’s easy to let yourself get pulled out to sea by the worries over the news and the coarseness of the culture’s attitude. It’s easy to build a little fort around your life and cross your fingers that the badness doesn’t get in. But we can’t give up on the world just yet. God hasn’t. To be pro-active in loving my neighbor is to fight my own anxiety and cynicism and to remind myself that what I do matters.

The sky is pink now and tipped with blue above the clouds. It’s easier to see. Upstairs the kids are thumping around their rooms like bears. Another day has begun. I hope to live it well.

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