December 15th, 2010
Words I wonder about: What if English had verbs for justice and mercy? Why the fascination with figuring out the meaning of forgiveness? What is the difference between wishing and hoping? We know to expand love beyond candlelight and romantic dreams, but do we expand hope?
I learned something about hope and its relationship with suffering when I worked in the Gaza Strip with MCC, years ago and in somewhat better times. It came home to me as I complained about road work that made me late to a meeting. My counterparts in the local organization reminded me that new roads and projects like the airport, with its little jewel of a terminal, gave them hope for the future as they faced thicker border fences, more complicated crossings to leave the narrow strip of land, and the loss of jobs.
Recently, I found a news photo of children in Gaza trying to set a world record for basketball dribbling. They were gathered on pavement in front of the airport terminal, now in lying in sand-covered ruins: children with basketballs a sign of hope in the midst of new, deeper despair.
In her “song,” Mary ties together suffering and hope in the coming Messiah. Her soul magnifies the Lord. She looks to the Magnificent One for mercy, to bring down the proud and powerful and to feed the hungry.
I believe that hope comes out of involvement in suffering, others and our own. It involves looking away from naiveté on one side and cynicism on the other and leaving behind despair. It is a choice to light a candle that pushes back darkness, remembering that darkness cannot put out light. It means deciding on basketballs and a camera.
May we look towards Christmas as nights continue to grow longer.