Choosing Joy, Living in Hope

I dedicate this post to young people who like me, believe in and are working for a better world, which is most of the young people I know!

When I was in High School my father said to me, “Don’t try to take the whole world on your shoulders. You will burn out.”

It would be easy to become tired and bitter putting my life into working for a more peaceful, environmentally sustainable, fair to all peoples – world.  It would be easy to despair when in the big picture there is no way to measure the little contributions. Yet I do not despair.

Botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer, in her book “Braiding Sweet Grass”, brings together science, observation and indigenous wisdom. She is passionate about right relationships with all the “peoples” of the earth, in which “peoples” include every element and living being of the earth. I am inspired by her inspiration: “Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy.  I choose joy over despair. Not because I have my head in the sand, (with respect to ecological crisis), but because joy is what the earth gives me daily and I must return the gift.”

We too can choose joy and find hope by being in a relationship of wonder and appreciation for the earth and her “peoples” who feed and care for us. To begin a relationship of reciprocity with the earth and her peoples is a huge paradigm shift from individual rights and entitlement to communal rights and responsibility. It is true that we can “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Living in right relationship means that we live differently – and that makes us part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Appreciation and thanks for life’s gifts bears the fruit of joy in our lives. We become part of the big ripple that enables others to believe it is possible to live differently – to live better.

Living in hope is a matter of perspective and practice:

Living in hope is very much about living in the present. This is the wisdom of the ages and across faith traditions. Good mental health has us not consumed with thoughts about the past or future. The more challenging the present circumstances the narrower is the time frame in which we must dwell. Sometimes we live “one day at a time” and sometimes we live one moment at a time.  In a practical sense, living in the present means to do something physical in a mindful way. Walk, garden, draw, colour, cook, hang clothes on the line, play a musical instrument, knit and so on. Routine helps.

Living in hope means living in a village. In a village there is birth and death, weddings and visitors, sickness and health, plant-time and harvest. Life is not perfect but there is perspective. Depending on my present mental health, it is important to know what’s happening outside of my “village”, but I try to remember that the “News” isn’t the whole picture of what is happening in my country, and even less so, in the world.

Living in hope means living in relationship. Isolation and the sense of isolation caused by covid has been devastating on mental health. Relationship is reciprocal. As we touch the lives of others so they touch our lives. In those times when we feel the most isolated it is important and courageous to take initiative to reach out for help, whether to a friend or a professional. (See resources page for help lines.) Relationship is foundational in our local, personal context. It also sustains those who work on systemic global issues.

Living in hope means living with balance. We must each learn to hear and trust our inner voice about when and how we relate to others.   

Living in hope means to trust that Goodness and Wholeness is the intent of Creator. Ron Rolheiser wrote, “nature – all of it, including ourselves, is incredibly resilient, incredibly resurrect-able. Given any chance, life wins out, brokenness heals, bitterness melts, new seeds form and life bursts forth from what once appeared to be dead. May we all leave behind us a string of empty tombs.” (1)

(1) “The Passion and the Cross” by Ronald Rolheiser. Franciscan Media, USA/ Novalis, Canada. 2015