This was my view during our last afternoon in Florida a couple weeks ago. Travis and I were sitting on a bench and I kept staring ahead at these trees, the Spanish Moss dangling from their branches, the pink flowers nestled peacefully in the shade. We were having a pretty deep discussion that began with evolution. I can get on the most random of subjects sometimes. This one started in a garden and continued as we meandered up and down a quaint little street in Winter Park, where people were sipping happy hour wine and cocktails, and snacking on bruschetta, chips and salsa. It was such an unassuming place for such an involved conversation. I tend to process things out loud and Travis is a really good sounding board. He also has really good perspective on things and will offer a lot of good ideas and insight. And he doesn’t judge when these topics seemingly arise out of no where like they did that day in a beautiful garden in Florida. The conversation twisted and turned and included thoughts on where we came from and where, as humans, we are going, until finally it turned into the current state of the world and all its problems, and then somewhat suddenly, I was nearly in tears.
Do you ever feel like you’re the only one in the entire world who believes there is still good in it? That good wins? That love is the answer? That many things are actually better than they used to be despite what we see on the news and hear from many people around us? This is how I felt in that moment, in this garden, while staring at this Spanish Moss. I felt like I needed to be at least one voice in a very loud sea of voices that still believed things could get better.
Of course I am not the only person who believes there is good, love, and beauty in the world. Most people still believe in fairy tales, superheroes, happily ever afters, and that good can overcome evil. If we didn’t believe this, we wouldn’t be flocking to “Star Wars” films, and movies like “Bridge of Spies” wouldn’t be nominated for Best Picture. (Have you seen “Bridge of Spies” by the way? If not, you should. It’s marvelous storytelling about how every life matters, even if that life may be considered a so-called enemy). I would guess that more than 90 percent of the fictional stories we turn to have positive endings. Voldemort loses. The Force continues. Po’s clumsy battles overtake evil (OK, I love “Kung Fu Panda” too). Doesn’t the stories we read and watch, and the endings we hope for, say something about humanity?
However, even if we seek happy endings, I bet you’ve heard the same doom-and-gloom phrases I have throughout my life. Things like, “It’s a sign of the times,” and “The world is going to hell in a hand basket,” and “Back in the good ol’ days.” I used to believe those phrases, and unfortunately, I often still do. But in that Florida garden I couldn’t because believing all of those phrases made me feel like I was giving up on the universe even though it has proven again, and again, and again, that people can forgive, forget, become stronger, love more, create change and present opportunity. If there is no hope, then what is the alternative?
People have been saying the end of the world has been coming for a long, long time – thousands of years probably. And has the world ended yet? The truth is, women in many parts of the world actually have more freedom than they’ve ever had. There is dialogue about some of the toughest subjects concerning all life – even animals. People of various races, religions, backgrounds, and cultures are accepted in ways that they weren’t 10, 20, 30, 100 years ago. Gay people can get married in the U.S. The topic of transgender people and how to support them is actually on the table. These are all really wonderful ways we are coming together in a world that feels incredibly broken and fragile sometimes.
Five or so years ago, I decided to believe that God made us all different for the reason that we have to learn to love. People weren’t meant to grow apart, but they were also meant to be challenged. It would be too easy to love if we were all made the same, and we wouldn’t know our full potential that way. There is something a lot more beautiful in creating truthful, positive, generous, everlasting relationships with others who are not the same as us. There is grace in the way we learn to protect each other, especially those who are more vulnerable. Every single day there are people everywhere who are working to help the underprivileged, the grieving, the lost, the broken.
Sometimes I feel there is very little I can do to help this world. Maybe you feel that way, too. I felt that way in the garden, and I decided I wouldn’t forget that conversation for a long time. I wouldn’t forget that I still have faith in humanity. To counter my feeling of helplessness, I’m challenging myself from here on out to be one hopeful voice.
What if I was one of the stars in that deep, black sky? What if I was one of the little lovely stars, after all? What if my hope was like a tiny speck of light shining with all the other twinkling diamonds of hope in the night? What if your hope shimmered, too? Maybe then more people wouldn’t lose their way. People look to the stars for directions, you know. And people look to hope when all seems lost.