During my senior year in college, I had the opportunity with several university students to interview older adults in a nursing facility about their experiences growing up not only during the Great Depression but also for many of them, going off to fight in the Second World War. For us as university students who had a passion for oral history, we were in awe at the remarkable spirit which guided these and many of our grandparents through one of the most challenging times in the 20th century.
For those of us who had loved ones who experienced the Great Depression and the war which followed, the coronavirus pandemic has been compared to their struggle which also resulted in millions of jobs being lost and massive loss of human life.
From an emotional health standpoint, we all are experiencing a level of emotional trauma from this pandemic. And all of us are and will continue to experience grief from the lives lost and the hopes and dreams dashed because of the spread of this virus.
For many of us who looked up to those part of what Tom Brokaw coined “The Greatest Generation,” we too are trying to find hope to sustain us in this period of great unknown.
For many, like myself, it’s through spiritual faith which brings us hope. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” writes Jeremiah in chapter 29 verses 1-11. And for those of us from the Christian faith tradition, we find hope through the promise of resurrection. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” – Romans 8:18.
For others, it may be finding hope in goodness and compassion which can still be found in humanity. And for all of us, regardless of our spiritual beliefs, hope can be found in the devotion and love we have for those in our lives.
Regardless of where hope may come for us, we as humans are resilient and despite our imperfections, find a way to believe that we will overcome the challenge in front of us even when all odds seem against us.
Twelve years ago when my mother was fighting cancer, she wrote a letter to a friend about how she defined hope. While I never saw the letter until years later after she died, it has sustained me in many challenging times that I have faced.
“Hope and kindness is the realization that life is precious,” she wrote in one of the parts of the letter.
Even though we have been told the next several days will be one of the most heartbreaking weeks in American history, we still will be a witness to hope and kindness that will allow us to see the preciousness of life.
This week, we will witness meals being served to those who are homebound because of their health issues. This week, we will witness individuals in their homes pulling out their sewing machines and making face masks for those working in the hospitals. This week, we will witness people risking their lives to help strangers by volunteering at different community response facilities. And this week, you will see nurses, doctors, first respondents, and those in our community who despite the tiredness, will save lives and perform miracles.
It’s through witnessing hope and kindness we will see the preciousness of life. And that preciousness of life will sustain us just as it did for our grandparents, parents, and all those in our lives whom we loved. We will inherit through them, what it means to have hope.
Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up,” writes one of my favorite authors Anne Lamott.
Much like our parents and grandparents, we too will come through these difficult days sustained by stubborn hope which against all odds, will pull us through when we least expected it. May you, in the words of the writer A.A. Milne, “discover you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”