A remarkable spirit guided my grandparents’ generation through one of the most challenging times in the 20th century.
I had the opportunity during my junior year of college to interview older adults in a nursing facility about their experiences growing up not only during the Great Depression but also for many of them, going off to fight in World War II.
As a student who had a passion for oral history, it was an unforgettable opportunity.
The coronavirus pandemic has been compared to their struggle, which also resulted in millions of jobs being lost and massive loss of human life.
From an emotional health standpoint, we all are experiencing a level of trauma from this pandemic.
And all of us are experiencing, and will continue to experience, grief from the lives lost and the hopes and dreams dashed because of the spread of this virus.
For many of us who looked up to what Tom Brokaw coined “The Greatest Generation,” we too are trying to find hope to sustain us in this period of great unknown.
It’s through spiritual faith that many of us find hope.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” Jeremiah 29:11 says.
Those of us from the Christian faith tradition find hope through the promise of resurrection. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us,” Paul writes in Romans 8:18.
For others, it may be looking for hope in goodness and compassion that can still be found in humanity.
And for all of us, regardless of our spiritual beliefs, hope can be found in the devotion and love we have for those in our lives.
Humans are resilient. Despite our imperfections, we find a way to believe we will overcome the challenge in front of us, even when all odds seem against us.
Twelve years ago, when my mother was fighting cancer, she wrote a letter to a friend about how she defined hope.
While I never saw the letter until years later after she died, it has sustained me in many challenging times I have faced.
“Hope and kindness is the realization that life is precious,” she wrote.
Even though last week was one of the most heartbreaking weeks in American history due to the lives lost to COVID-19 increasing dramatically, we still found hope and kindness.
Here are a few hopeful acts that we witnessed:
- Meals being served to those who are homebound because of their health issues.
- Individuals in their homes pulling out their sewing machines and making face masks for those working in hospitals.
- People risking their lives to help strangers by volunteering at different community response facilities.
- Nurses, doctors, first respondents and those in our community who, despite the tiredness, saved lives and performed miracles.
It’s through witnessing acts of hope and kindness like these that we see the preciousness of life being affirmed and cherished.
And that preciousness of life will sustain us just as it did for our grandparents, parents and all those in our lives whom we loved. We will inherit through them what it means to have hope.
Hope begins in the dark – the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, then the dawn will come.
“You wait and watch and work: You don’t give up,” writes Anne Lamott, who is one of my favorite authors.
Much like our parents and grandparents, we, too, will come through these difficult days sustained by stubborn hope that, against all odds, will pull us through when we least expected it.
May you, in the words of the writer A.A. Milne, “discover you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”
Christopher L. Schilling is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) minister, hospital chaplain, and a chaplain in the Air Force Reserve.