Not my typical morning ruminations, but this morning I woke up wondering about people in cars in ditches. Here’s the context: I’m on a trans-continental road trip with my 22-year-old son, destination Los Angeles. We opted for the southern route versus the Rockies to avoid Bad Winter Weather, and somewhere around Faribault, MN we encountered a raging snowstorm that blew us all the way to Enid, Oklahoma, 11 hours later. People plan, God laughs.
As we passed car after spun-out car in the ditch, I felt myself becoming increasingly uncomfortable. Some people had clearly been rescued from their now abandoned cars. Others were fresh spin-outs, dignified by telltale tire tracks that careened off the road and led to a vehicle with emergency lights flashing and presumably a person in distress inside.
“I hope they’re ok,” I repeated to my son as we passed the first few cars. This phrase was soon replaced with, “Do you think we should pull over?” Given the dangerous conditions, we decided not to stop and thus perhaps imperil ourselves as well.
And yet, I’m haunted by the action of our non-action. The hope that I held for the well-being of those stranded in ditches felt thin, thus my discomfort. At the time, however, that hope, along with prayer, was all I had to give.
Hope starts early in life. We find it first in childhood dreams and fancies. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” we are asked as kids. I want to be a doctor. I hope to explore the bottom of the ocean. I hope I can fly to the moon. Lofty and magical ambitions are part and parcel of the imagination of youth. And how important they are, for without these hopes and dreams, they may never be realized.
These are first layer hopes. The wishes of childhood are fanciful and not yet tethered to reality. Second layer hopes run deeper. They may be aspirations more grounded in reality than those of our childhood. “I hope I/she/he gets into graduate school,” or “I hope find a loving partner and have a family some day.” For an elderly or sick person our mantra becomes, “We hope she isn’t in much pain.” Then there’s the universal hope. The hope for our planet and all of its creatures. The hope for world peace.
How do we measure hope? Is it quantifiable? For instance, how much hope is in the eyes of the man who stands at the corner near St. Mary’s Basilica holding a cardboard sign reading, “Anything Helps. Vietnam Vet. God Bless.” How do we measure the spark that is still there, that got him to the street corner earlier that day, to claim his turf? What amount of hope propelled him there? How many people must reach into their hearts and wallets and say, “Why would I not give?” to keep his spark alive? Hope does indeed spring eternal.
Sometimes, in recovery, our hopes are best deferred. Our plans for the future might suffer some collateral damage, and we need to put our vision for the future on hold until we are on solid sober ground. Relationships. College. Kids.
Poet and playwright Langston Hughes eloquently addressed this notion of waiting, “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore – and then run?”
In my version, hope waits patiently to poke its humble head out, like the crocus under a cap of snow in the spring. Hope longs for the gaze of the sun to cast its warmth, so that the frozen world can soften and melt away.
Our wish for our readers from The Phoenix Spirit is that you find some nuggets of hope and inspiration in this issue. We are forever grateful to our readers, advertisers, and writers, that we can continue to carry the message.