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' A CONTAGION OF HOPE'
By Trish Patrick in All Sorts
exploration of how hope keeps us attuned to what ever is life affirming, in any situation, even the grimmest.....' A CONTAGION OF HOPE'
Hope is a word we use a lot and in varying contexts.
We 'hope' it will be a lovely day, we 'hope' to attend a function, we 'hope' life will work out well for our kids. Used in the context of its deepest meaning, it's a little word carrying layers of
expectations, dreams, ideals and impetus for the journey of life.
Over recent times, a number of family, friends and acquaintances have been severely impacted by suicide. For people suffering suicidal ideation, one common denominator is loss of hope...not mere disappointment in the hand life has dealt them, but a deep-seated, black hole of profound hope-lessness which, in the moment, seems insurmountable and irreversible. The trauma of this tragedy for all involved is immeasurable. Suicide would be the most extreme and devastating expression of loss of hope. It's hard for those who have not been in that black hole to understand the depth and sense of hopelessness of that dark place. It's equally hard for the grieving to manage their feelings of anger, betrayal, resentment and guilt which sit so uncomfortably alongside profound sadness and loss.
WHY? What did we miss?
Questions compel us to search our memories of recent and maybe not so recent comments, conversations, and behaviour in the hope clues will be forthcoming. 'Why was hope so distressingly absent?... if only they had not given up hope'
Distressingly, these questions usually remain unanswered.
The painful work of grieving begins. It is encouraging and hopeful that nurturing groups like 'Suicide Prevention Awareness' are providing places where people can talk. Talking about it safely, openly, and honestly is the first step in planting seeds of hope for those struggling with the issue. Not talking about it hasn't helped, at all! The deafening silence has only increased the stigma, shame and guilt around this most grim situation.
John Draper, CEO of 'National Suicide Prevention Lifeline USA' said he believed that 'talking safely and respectfully about suicide could create a 'contagion of hope' in society; de-stigmatising it and giving permission for useful conversation, helping people identify colleagues, friends, and family members who may be struggling with mental health issues such as depression, loneliness and/or bullying.'
How is our 'hope status'? We all, at some point in our lives, experience depression, low mood and loss of hope in varying degrees. It's not just individuals who lose hope and become depressed. Organisations like churches can collectively become depressed when facing huge change. In my experience of the various faith communities we have been part of, Dunedin Methodist Parish would definitely be one of the more hope-ful. There are few services and events where I don't leave feeling better and a little more hopeful than when I arrived. I wonder if in part, this is because as a group 'finding good in everyone, finding god in everyone' is taken seriously and is part of the church's lived experience.That's not to say we don't have faults and foibles and differing points of view as individuals and as a parish, but we manage to overcome these by appealing to the better angels of our natures collectively and individually.
Like John Draper, I believe hope can be contagious. Not a naive unrealistic type of hope, but an informed hope, grounded in reality. Hope is not a belief that nothing will go wrong, rather a deep knowing that when stuff does go wrong, (and it invariably does) the element of redemption will have the final word. Ian Harris in his book 'New World, New God' writes..'hope keeps people attuned to what ever is life affirming, in any situation, even the grimmest'.
Jesus consistently affirmed life-giving situations. He said.'I have come that you might have life and have it in all its abundance..' ( John 10: 10.) We are not, however, promised a trouble proof life. Juliana of Norwich, An Anchorite mystic who lived in 12th-13th century wrote ' All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.' It takes energy and commitment to nurture hope and wisdom to create an environment where it might flourish. Sometimes we need to take calculated risks. Dale reflected on this in her interesting article a few weeks back. 'Paradoxically, it is the old that awaits to be reborn in the new.' writes David Tacey ('The Spirituality Revolution' ). Our parish is very effective as a life-affirming community of faith. Much good work happens quietly and without fanfare. Prof. Peter Lineham commented to me at Open Ed. that 'we need to accept what we are as church, not try to be something we are not.' Good advice. We are a work in progress.
With this in mind, it is my prayer we continue to be people of hope. Remembering and honouring the past, mining its most valued treasure, whilst maintaining a positive (but realistic) hope-ful attitude, as we plan how best to nurture and sustain our community moving into the future.
He came singing hope
and he lived singing hope; He died singing hope.
He arose in silence.
For the hope to go on
we must make it our song:
You and I be the singers. (Colin Gibson) A contagion of hope!!