Stories of Hope In Hard Times
What You Won't Hear On Cable News
Hi friends, In this post is one of my readings from Until Now: New Poems. This poem is about the news of the world and the news of the heart. We don’t hear about the daily, consistent acts of goodness that happen everyday everywhere. So I wanted to share a couple of stories that real touched me. I hope you’ll share it with friends who might appreciate such stories
Recently, I shared a song during an online multi faith prayer and music gathering, hosted by ServiceSpace.org, in solidarity with our kindred in Eastern Europe. There were people from all over the world, offering love, hope and solidarity in the form of music, prayer, story and dance from many traditions. At one point a beautiful woman from Poland spoke. She told the heart breaking story of how millions of people were entering Poland, families and children who had to flee their homes in the Ukraine, often leaving everything behind but what they could carry. Then she told us two more stories. The first was a story of a social media page where people who were coming from the Ukraine into her town could post what they needed (water, shelter, food, clothing). She had personally been trying to host a family in her home, but every time someone posted about a need, within 60 seconds shelter had been offered. She couldn’t offer fast enough. Within a minute. People were opening their hearts and homes, doing what they could in these difficult times. People were reaching out doing what they could, welcoming the stranger, providing for their needs - within 60 seconds.
The second story took my breath away. A Russian soldier had been captured and was taken to the center of a small town. A crowd gathered and it was looking grim for the captured soldier. Then a single woman walked through the crowd and offered the soldier a cup of soup. He looked at her with wonder and confusion. The crowd was quieted and another woman moved through the crowd and offered the young man a cell phone and encouraged him to call his family, they would be worried and needed to know he was alright. The young soldier broke down and wept into his hands. He could not be sent back to the war, but he would not be harmed by the people of this town.
In these troubled times, there are terrible things happening, and yet there are actions of love, courage and the best of human capacity happening. It takes generations to heal the suffering and wounds of war. Generations will tell stories of the ones loved and lost, violence and suffering. Often it takes making the hard decision to not forget, but to find a way back to our shared humanity, which can start with something as brave and decent as a cup of soup, or the offer of a cell phone.
The international peacemaker, John Paul Lederach, tells the story of two groups of African women who had lived on either side of war. The dividing line between countries was only a mile or so from their villages. The decided that nothing would change unless they could see one another as people who had suffered and who had a story. So they started meeting at noon, gathering at the dividing line and telling their stories of love and loss. It created a node, like a point on a spiderweb that can vibrate across an entire structure. It shifted something. It doesn’t take 100% of people to create change, it only takes nodes, individuals and communities who are willing to do the extremely hard work of listening, hearing and doing something decent in the midst of all that is indecent.
The war in the Ukraine is raging, and the losses are utterly heartbreaking and will last for years and years. But I am touched by the woman with the cup of soup and the woman with the cell phone. Could I have done such a thing? I hope I could have, but grief and anger are powerful. As Parker J. Palmer so insightfully wrote, “violence is what happens when we do not know what else to do with our suffering.” But if these two women (who have profoundly suffered ) can offer the hope of human kindness and decency in such a situation, it gives me courage to offer hope and human kindness in my daily life. It encourages me to be the change I want to see in the world, to make the change I can with the daily gifts I have to offer —moment by moment, choice by choice, with love and not fear.
I hope you’ll leave a comment. If you have a story (large or small) of Hope in Hard Times, I hope you’ll post it or a link.
And do check out the Substack app. it is a great way to read on your tablet or smart phone, it also organizes if you have more than one substack author you follow. I love using it personally.
I’ve been posting these serial poetry readings on the supporting subscriber section of my substack page. But I wanted to open this up for everyone. I hope you’ll share it.