Sunday, May 13, 2007

(I was asked to talk about hope at my Quaker meeting. Here's what I said.)

Good morning. My name is Joy and I’m here to talk about hope. I’d like to start with cartoon:

At first glance, it’s easy to think that this woman is a bit of a jerk. Or maybe she’s someone whose privilege blinds her to the suffering of others. That may be true, but I think there’s an more interesting possibility. I think that this is a woman who has lost hope.

Like most people, I have a list of things that I’d rather not think about. Here's my list: global warming, the AIDS epidemic, the people who made the clothes I wear, and the Republican and Democratic nominees for president. When I think about things like this, I feel heavy. I start thinking about all of the things that I don’t do well enough, or often enough, or at all. I feel as though our problems are insurmountable. I lose hope.

But there are other situations in which I have tremendous hope. When I was asked to talk about hope, I started thinking about the differences between the situations and find depressing and the situations where I find hope. I realized the difference between hopelessness and hopefulness doesn’t lay in the situation itself. Against all odds, I feel a tremendous, deeply rooted, and thus far unshakable sense of hope for the situation in Palestine and Israel. And honestly, if there has ever been a situation that appears hopeless, it’s the Israeli military occupation of Palestine.

But I feel hope. I’ve found that the difference between hopefulness and hopelessness lays in my own willingness to become engaged. I don’t find hope by protecting myself from discouragement. The hope I feel for Palestine, has come from working in Palestine. Not from visiting or witnessing or learning, though those are all good things. For me, there is something special about working. As I have worked in Palestine, I’ve been able to see God working. God is doing some pretty amazing things. I’ve stood besides Palestinians who were willing to risk being beaten, jailed or shot to nonviolently prevent land confiscation. I’ve stood beside Israelis as they participated in Palestinian–led demonstrations. Because they were willing to face angry soldiers and because they were willing to openly call for a just peace, these Israelis were able to create real relationships with Palestinians. That’s real peacemaking. I know people who have put themselves on the line for twenty years to build a better future for their families. I’ve seen Palestinians graze sheep in places they used to be unable to walk a year ago. I’ve seen God working. And I have hope. I have the sort of hope that feels obvious, the same way that I have a faith of God that feels obvious. George Fox described his understanding of God by saying “and this I knew experimentally.” This hope I know experimentally.

It’s easy for me to give in to the temptation to preserve hope by sheltering myself from the realities that I believe will endanger it. It’s tempting to believe that easy, unthreatening answers are hopeful ones. But for me, hope flows from seeing God working in our world. That means that hope requires being willing to invite heartbreak. Experiencing the presence of God requires openness and if we are going to be open to the world, we’ll find a lot of heartbreak. And if we allow our hearts to be broken, I think we can find hope. We are blessed or cursed to be a part of a tradition that doesn’t pull at lot of punches. At our best, Quakers have been people who have been willing to take difficult, painful stands for justice, all the while being wildly hopeful.

I’d like to close with one of my favorite prayers:

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we will live deep in our hearts.

May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people and the earth so that we will work for justice, equity and peace.

May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer so we will reach out our hands to comfort them and change their pain to joy.

And may God bless us with the foolishness to think that we can make a difference in the world, so we will do the things which others say cannot be done.


Dean said...

I was ready for a good cry anyway, but this post absolutely opened the flood gates.

It's so nice to know that someone else is struggling to connect with their heart in a world filled with despair. I can relate particularly to your list - especially the nominees for president.

Don't worry. I think someone has a plan to get us out of this mess. There's a great scene in Brave Heart where Mel Gibson's character is hunkered down under a shield to repel a barrage of arrows from the English, and the Irish prince fighting beside him says from under his own shield - I talked to God this morning and he told me He is going to get me out of this mess. But He told me He doesn't know about you!

Your experiences feel so much like mine. I guess it's because we are all made of the same flesh. I have been trying to engage on the injustice in Palestine and I have been reading some of the Palestinian news feeds. I just go crazy knowing that my country is partly responsible for what is going on there and could put a stop to it in an instant if we had a just leader. I will spare you a rant on that and stay on you topic, which is how to find hope.

Besides checking in here regularly for a dose of inspiration, I am committed to talk about injustice in Palestine to anyone who will listen.

I had a blog going for a while and sometimes I posted on the topic at DailyKos ... but the proponents of Israel there are absolutely stifling. . They've even started banning people for speaking out for justice in Palestine. I never thought that would happen in my whole life. I always thought that progressives were interested in social justice until now. But they're acting like Philistines.

Sorry to poison your beautiful post with a sign post pointing to Perdition, but I believe as you do that people need to testify for justice no matter how many times we get struck down.

I'm going to start engaging too and if enough of us get busy the work will go much faster. I'm going to restart my blog and I'm going to sing to the mountain tops.

Many hands make short work.

Thank you for your work for peace.


joy_in_palestine said...

Thanks, Dean. This is one of the nicest comments I've ever received. Glad to hear someone else is ready to engage. With lots of people doing what we're doing, things will get better. Maybe even soon.