Monday, October 27, 2008


Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.
Charles Caleb Colton

While walking in the sunshine and the frost by the lake this morning, I watched the park gardeners pulling out leggy impatiens and begonias to make room for the spring bulbs.

I love "putting the bulbs to bed" each autumn, admiring the brownish-pink blush of their smooth skins as I drop them deep into their loamy cradles then cover them with a blanket of warm earth.  It always amazes me that they have within them an internal alarm clock primed to waken them at exactly the right moment next Spring.  This dependable budding of beauty and fragrance is, for me, a powerful symbol of hope.

Several times this past week, I have spoken with helpers who are worn to the bone with burnout or compassion fatigue - people who no longer see their situations as hopeful, but impossible. What they don't know, perhaps, is that there can be hope even in the midst of impossible situations.

Does that sound a little delusional to you?  After all, we know when things are impossible.  We know that terminal cancer means death. We know that people and governments don't change. We know that there will never be sufficient resources to teach the way we would like to teach or nurse the way we would like to nurse. And thus, we remain stuck in the quagmire of impossibilities.

But what about people like Christopher Reeve and Michael J. Fox who have believed that a cure can be found for catastrophic injuries and debilitating illnesses?  Have they been delusional or are they living in hope in impossible situations?  And what about all the people living with progressive and degenerative illnesses who have learned that one doesn't have to give up hope, rather, that one can change what one hopes for as the illness progresses?

(I remember how my husband and I hoped, soon after his diagnosis, for one last trip to Holland.  Then we hoped for one more healthy Christmas.  Then for the strength to get him into the wheelchair for Thanksgiving dinner. Then for a night without pain.  And, finally, to be together for a peaceful death. The goals changed but the hope remained.).

In writing about hope from a religious perspective in, Finding Hope, Marcia Ford offers the following reflection which, I think, is applicable to all of us:

Nearly everyone has a story about a time in their lives when something that seemed impossible actually came to pass.  Think about one such time in your life.  Why did you think the situation was impossible?  When did you realize that the situation could change?  What made the difference?  Give the same careful thought to an impossible situation in your life today.


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