April 25, 2020
In May of 1979, I began writing a weekly column for the San Angelo Standard Times. From that time until the last column in January of this year, 2020, I didn’t miss a week. Writing the column each week became part of my routine and my weekly discipline, and it provided a wonderful connection with friends through West Texas. I met people I would never have known before, and I treasure those friendships that are across three generations.
The purpose of the column stayed constant through almost 41 years, and that was to take an everyday occurrence and meander around it to understand it and allow it to become an inspiration for personal growth. My belief is that the more personal something is, the more universal it is, and so I became acutely aware of those ordinary incidents that in my life or others’ were either troubling or painful, joyful or lovely, life-affirming or discouraging, and called them “growing edges”. A growing edge, as I define it, is a part of your life that is unfinished or incomplete, inadequate or confusing. On the other hand, something new and different in your life can also be a growing edge — a new relationship, a career change, a new baby or an exciting trip A growing edge is where you have the opportunity to …well, grow — mentally, emotionally, spiritually or relationally.
My own spiritual and religious life is deeply meaningful and important to me, but in this column my intention has been constant, and that was to communicate a spiritual truth in secular language that would not be confined by my particular chosen faith. While some were critical of my not using the column as a forum for my own religious faith persuasion, I stayed constant in my desire to reach out to people of all faiths or political positions. At Christmas and during the Easter season, I sometimes have used my own faith-of-choice to inspire a column, but hopefully, I have made the column broad enough that it still contains a truth that can transcend religious differences. It has been my great joy that some of my most faithful fans are from faiths different from mine.
Over the years, I worked with many wonderful editors and publishers. Last December I learned that the group that had most recently bought the San Angelo Standard Times in San Angelo, Texas, had decided to stop paying all freelance writers to deal with their own financial difficulties. Sadly, that decision included me, but with the encouragement of others to write the column on my website, I begin again in this forum.
With this terrible pandemic, not only will all of us have many different growing edges, but for this season, each of us needs to keep hope alive.
My friends, I hope that what I write here each week will shine the light on the possibility, promise, and potential that is hidden in the middle of every problem and challenge. I hope we will be friends. And for this season, my intention is to encourage hope.
So, the launching of Keeping Hope Alive begins on the next page — .
Keeping Hope Alive 1
Week 6 of Sheltering at Home
My five-year-old grandson announced to his mom during Week 1 of his stay-at-home schooling that he would like to go on a field trip to the Mayborn museum in Waco.
When told that the museum was closed like his preschool was closed, his brow furrowed as he pondered the dilemma. “Do they have germs, too?” he asked. It is hard to observe disillusionment and lost innocence in my children and grandchildren. Frankly, I still don’t find it easy to have my own illusions shattered, but once that happens, I can see better. Without illusions, I can make more informed choices.
I could never have imagined the horrors of this corona virus. I could never have imagined the confusion and contradictions that would emerge, adding to the pain of suffering and loss. Perhaps it was naivete that made it hard for me to imagine pandemic – especially in my country!
In these 41 days I have been sheltering at home, as I wake up, I feel a sense of dread about what the news might hold. When I check the news and see the number of new cases just within the United States and the mounting number of deaths, a grey cloud of grief engulfs me.
However, as my initial denial about how bad this pandemic could be gave way to the reality of the pandemic, I recalled a phrase I heard from teacher and writer Lewis Smedes at a retreat at Laity Lodge in the Hill Country of Texas.
Keeping Hope Alive, Smedes’ phrase and a slogan, captured my imagination then and has been a guiding light through some dark times, and after living with that slogan for several years and going through losses and hard times, I now understand hope better than before.
We use the words hope and wish interchangeably, and we use the word hope casually. We hope our team wins and we hope we have a good time at a party. More seriously, we hope a loved one recovers from an illness and we wish we could make a dream happen.. We blow out our birthday candles, making a wish. We don’t want our sick loved ones to give up hope.
Hope is not wishful thinking. It is not positive thinking or feel-good religion. Hope is not the same as optimism, but is an internal spiritual quality. Each has its place in our mental meanderings; some lead us to survive and thrive, while others trap us in magical thinking.
Wishing for something, day-dreaming about a future outcome and positive thinking about life are all natural for human beings. As humans we are pain-avoiding, pleasure-seeking creatures, and it is natural for us to avoid pain and want pleasure.
Dr. Smedes’ retreat theme, Keeping Hope Alive was inspired by a slogan used during a turbulent time in Los Angeles. It was intended to encourage persons through a turbulent, frightening and unsettling time in the life of that city. And now, it is a slogan for us today.
Yes, Wyatt, there are germs at the museums, and there are germs everywhere.
And yes, these are our current turbulent times. It is an uncertain and terrible time, in fact.
There are scary things in life that we have to endure, and there are people who do scary things, but it is up to us, the parents, grandparents, friends and teachers – the elders among us, if you will– to keep hope alive in our own hearts and minds, first of all, for our own well-being.
Just as we wear our masks in public, it is important for us to keep hope alive for the welfare of others. Keeping hope alive is essential work, and it is a work worth doing.
Hope is essential for children of all ages to thrive, so in this time of germs and the viruses of fear, hate and divisiveness, the challenge is to first, do no harm with our talk or our behavior.
The truth is that children learn from us and more is caught than taught, when caring for children. We teach our children by our own behavior and attitudes.
We must rise to the challenge and by our words, but more, our actions, express both honesty and hope, first for ourselves and both with each other and for each other.
Remember: The children are watching. Keep hope alive.