I am finding it hard to sustain a sense of hope in the face of local and international changes. So many decisions seem to be made from fear and insecurity, so much violence and abuse on every stream of information I receive. The recent attacks in the Cologne train station have somehow pushed me over the edge. They are harrowing in their scale and also because I know the place and station well. Adding theses attacks to the refugee crisis, international incompetence in the face of environmental disaster, the rise of ISIS in the middle east, flooding in the village my Grandparents lived in England; there seems to be so much change happening that I cannot wield any influence over.
My reaction has been to work harder for change in the spheres of influence I do have. However, this just makes me more tired and I know that busyness is a tried and tested strategy for avoidance in my life. As Will Taegel said:
"We mistakenly believe that if we just work harder we will feel better."
The other things I have been doing is reaching out to old friends and re-connecting to my past remembering when I felt more hopeful. This has included sorting out old photos and finally digitizing my whole music collection. Images and music vividly bring back the earlier parts of my life. I have been reminded how incredibly hopeful I was as a young man.
I was asked at a meeting at the HUB last week what gives me hope for Nova Scotia and I found it hard to answer. I could only come back to the simple things like my relationships to people I trust, new families arriving in our region, the growth of the HUB, a new playground in Mahone Bay, Bayview School - there was nothing grandiose or bigger picture in it.
I keep wondering where all the hope, that the photos and music remind me of, has gone. How do I seem to be able to sustain myself without it? When I pause from my busyness with work and a young family, like in this last holiday period, I find I discover something deeper than hope. Something more long lasting - even more trustworthy.
For me, it is in the small things and direct experiences that I find faith: friendships, small steps that get results, kindness of people I do not know. I am not a religious person, in that I do not subscribe to any formal or institutionalized religion. I do discover some basic faith inside of me though. Some unshakeable belief that even in the face of the global turmoil we’ll be okay because people are basically good.
It may be that in the end, all my hard work in governments, organisations and communities here and overseas will amount to nothing. Even in the face of a complete failure of my vision I still have some faith we’ll be okay. When I was having a tough period a few years ago my wife sent me this quote from Edward teller and it has always stuck with me:
"When you get to the end of all the light you know and it's time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly."
That’s the feeling I have. No matter how bad things might get there are going to be people and places I can turn to. It is the quality of my relationships that are the bedrock of any vision for something different. The trust I have in my wife, my old friends and the new friendships that have become part of my life here in Nova Scotia and North America.
Once I surrender my grandiose hope for a better world I immediately become more patient and able to deal with the here and now more meaningfully and effectively. If we want to get good results and take the incremental steps towards a fundamental change, I believe we must focus on the things that remind us of our faith. Our relationships to people we trust, the small things in our communities that point to a positive future and the kernel clarity I find inside my heart every time I look - that just tells me everything will work out in the end.
Get the blog in your email inbox: