Not long ago I (the Reverend) found myself in a strange place: The Bronx (the northern borough of New York City). I was there for my son’s basketball tournament. Having grown up in the Midwest, the only person I had ever met from this place was my college history professor. When I asked him if he would ever consider moving back he didn’t hesitate in his reply, “No Thonx!”
As a Red Sox fan, I could relate. It strikes me as a very busy place with a lot of concrete and a lot of people. I guess that’s why I was so surprised to spot a beautiful patch of green space just outside the gymnasium where my son was competing. I had a few minutes to kill so I decided to do a little exploring.
It turned out to be an oasis. The frantic sounds of the city were swirling around me but I quickly become oblivious. I was captivated by what was right in front of me. On this small stamp of earth was a spring treasure. Seven varieties of trees were beginning to find their leaves. Twittering robins, chickadees and grackles rejoiced in the sun. Tiny white asters and wild violets created inconspicuous garlands in the grass. A small bouquet of daffodils stretched forth to announce the arrival of their favorite season. The spiked fruit of the sweetgum tree littered the ground.
I was transported. I felt renewed. In the midst of one of the noisiest and most congested places in the country I experienced beauty…and the beauty gave me hope. I think that is one of the reasons I like living in the Northeast—each spring we have to live with hope. Hope that spring will actually arrive…fear that maybe one year it won’t. American playwright Jean Kerr (1922-2003) once said that “hope is the feeling you have that the feeling you have isn’t permanent.”
Hope is built on the principle that our lives are full of seasons. And seasons don’t last forever. In the long slog of winter, we survive by trusting that a new season is coming. The detritus on the ground in the fall will someday be replaced with new buds, new flowers, new life. That is the hope for every life in seasons of grief, loss, despair, fear, confusion and sickness. That this too shall pass. But I don’t think this explains all there is to know about hope. Because hope thrives in community.
We aren’t built to carry heavy emotional burdens by ourselves. We need each other. We need others to tell us they see the light when all we see is darkness. And we need others to tell us they won’t leave us alone in our darkness. That gives us hope—hope that we are not alone…hope that we can endure…hope to see us through. I think that is why I believe that wherever there is love, there is also the possibility of hope.
If you know someone living in a hopeless place, don’t leave them alone. They need you. And they need the hope of spring.
Click here to purchase Rabbi Daniel Cohen’s book, What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?