Thursday, May 19, 2011


Several things happened today that made me think about hope.  It’s one of the cardinal virtues that St. Paul extols in his hymn to charity, 1 Corinthians 13.  It was a buzz word in President Obama’s 2008 campaign.  It’s also, I think, what keeps everybody going.  It’s what keeps me going.

Hope, it seems to me, is a belief in the adage that my shrink drummed into my head during the 5.5 years of our therapeutic relationship: “nothing is forever.”  Good things, bad things; happy times, sad times; being obese, being svelte; being partnered, being alone.  All states and conditions change.   So, as a fat kid, I hoped to be skinny and, when I went to the seminary, I got skinny quick.  As a disgruntled worker in a boring job, I hoped for a job that would engage as many of my interests and skills as possible and, when I went to work at the medical school, I was in job heaven.  When I was younger and more selfish than I am today, I wanted to be more adult, more giving, less self-absorbed.  Today, as I look back, I see that I am much less selfish and self–absorbed and much more a giving adult.  How did that happen?  I changed.  I grew up.  Life changed me.

Life isn’t finished with me yet, though.  There still are many parts of my life that I’d like to improve.  There still are opportunities I’d like to have.  There still are people to be met and loved.  Hope allows me to think that the adage still is true, even for the 64–year–old me: nothing lasts forever; these things, too, can change.  That’s hope.

The question for me, then, is how much of the responsibility for hope is mine, and how much is life’s (or God’s, if I’m to believe in God).  If hope is for a better future, then hope means change.  How much of that change is work that I have to do, and how much of it will be done by life/fate/God?  I think about all the great changes in my life: going to school in the seminary, meeting the various people who changed my life, camping for a month in California, getting married, having kids, coming out, changing jobs, deciding on impulse to go on vacation to New Mexico, retiring.  All of these changes didn’t in and of themselves produce good things in my life.  Most of them just put me in a different position where desired good things happened, with little or no effort from me.  For example, I changed jobs in 1982 because I wanted more money.  That was my one and only reason for moving to a new job.  That new job, though, fulfilled so many hopes besides my hope for more money: I found a supervisor who became a great mentor who taught me so much about work, and professionalism, and myself.  I found many new colleagues and friends who enriched my life and help me better understand exactly who I am.  I found challenges and failure that, in time, made me much more humble, much more patient, much more compassionate, and much better able to be a Mensch to my family and friends.  All the good stuff from that job is stuff that I didn’t expect, didn’t look for when I took it.  It just happened.  None of it would have happened, though, without my getting off my ass and doing something, namely, looking for a job that paid more money.

So hope means change, and change means I have to act.  The definition of insanity that Einstein supposedly gave is repeating the same action but expecting different results.  I can’t sit still, doing the same things day after day, and believe that the things for which I hope will drop miraculously from the sky.  Hope is interactive, I guess.  If I’m to see happen in my life the things I now hope for, I have to start the process by at least being open to changes and making those changes that seem likely to produce the results for which I hope.

I used to think that being old would mean resting on the experiences of a lifetime.  Not true.  I see it so clearly when I visit my Mom and her 80– and 90–year old friends in Florida.  No matter how old they are, each of these women has something they hope for, something better that they are trying to make happen in their lives.  “Hope springs eternal,” is a truism and, like all truisms, it’s true.  I’ve seen it in Florida.  I see it in myself.

1 comment:

  1. you wrote "So hope means change, and change means I have to act"....SO TRUE! This is why our grop was born, why I am doing what I am doing and why my life now has me on this track that I am on. This ride is overwhelming sometimes, I feel like I am trying to do too much too fast, and then I read this....and you confirmed that what I am doing is exactly what I SHOULD be doing! Thank you for that my new friend! ♥