I believe in hope.
I live in a city still recovering from riots that occurred over 30 years ago; empty buildings stand alone, abandoned by a country that long ago left these problems to the neighborhoods whose population has fled in the tens of thousands leaving an ever dwindling tax base. My city, Detroit stands at the bottom of every economic indicator, while its main resource — the car companies — struggle to adapt in a radically changing world.
Still I, and so many others, retain hope that new leaders will emerge able to bring about a renaissance; we retain hope that the city’s dedicated souls will come together and show everyone else in the country that a city can be transformed through sheer perseverance.
Last week Detroit hosted the Super Bowl. It was transforming. The city was clean. Years of road construction now completed revealed gleaming paths into the downtown area. Television coverage showed A-list celebrities glowing about the city, and city leaders glowing about what a great job everyone had done.
Hope permeated every conversation in the streets. It was a new beginning — raw and idealistic. And anything worth having has to start with hope.
Hope has amazing energy. Hope alone can propel some people out of poverty. Hope can propel scientists to invent life-saving drugs. Hope can propel the fortitude to survive seemingly fatal disease.
Hope has a special sustaining power. Hope sustained Nelson Mandela when, after years of bitter violence, he sat down with the white ruling government of South Africa to negotiate a new government and constitution. Hope sustained Mahatma Gandhi when he sat in silent protest showing the world a new way of social action.
The feeling of hope embodies a certain capacity for risk. Hope can spur a firefighter to run into a blazing building.
The dictionary defines hope as “desire with expectation.” It can be a noun, as in one of the three Christian virtues, in addition to faith and love. The Jewish national anthem, Hatikva, means “the hope.” It can be a verb, an action. We use this word so loosely, peppering our sentences with it each day. But, at its most profound, it is at the core of our deepest desires and so powerful that it can defeat the most formidable of obstacles.
When Langston Hughes wrote in 1936 that “We, the people, must redeem our land, the mines, the plants, the rivers, the mountains and the endless plains, the stretch of these great green states and make America again,” he let out hope, rising above the anger, sorrow and pain of legal segregation and racism in this country. When those dispossessed by Hurricane Katrina return to New Orleans, they will embrace the hope that their city will be rebuilt.
Of all the virtues, the Gods concealed hope among the evil spirits contained within Pandora’s box. As Edith Hamilton said in her book, “Mythology,” “it remains to this day mankind’s sole comfort in misfortune.”
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