Months ago, hope seemed like a wonderful theme. Oh sure, there are the longer nights and the colder weather, but still . . . there is hope. And then, November ends with an ever-growing stream of accusations of sexual harassment against politicians and celebrities, as well as further efforts to undermine health care, increasing tensions across the globe, proposed tax reform detested by 52% of the population (surely, a supermajority in this environment), and the violent last gasps of a culture that was built upon the unexamined and imagined superiority of white people.
Suddenly, hope seems far away even for an optimist like me.
So, what do we do when hope seems far away, if not imprudent?
For me, taking some time to be quiet, allowing myself to breathe into the sadness, walking with the despair, helped me recalibrate. I remembered that I think of hope as a choice, not a feeling. David Brower, one time president of the Sierra Club described optimism and pessimism as being on “opposite sides of the same coin, the same irresponsible surrender to fatalism, in which you treat the future as fate and not choice, and not taking responsibility for creating the future you want.”
This has always resonated with me, as I imagine it does with you. It is foundational to Unitarian Universalism. As a faith tradition, we continually grew away from speculating on what happens after death. Instead, we are guided to concern ourselves with the here and now and to work to shape the world into the image held in our dreams.
Hope is not blind optimism. It is not meeting reality with a blithe smile or ignoring the news while chanting some Disney-inspired mantra like “Don’t Worry; Be Happy.”
Instead, it is closer to Barbara Kingsolver’s guidance: “The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”
Our Board has held before us its hope. “By May 1, 2018 we will have a viable plan to free JUC from the limits of our campus in order to live more fully into our mission.” The Board has described it as a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. Yet, truthfully, I think the Board, holding our history, current members, partners, and those yet to come through our doors and boldly cast a vision to remain a dynamic church, relevant in its message, and relentless in its desire to grow its capacity to shape the community in which it sits. In other words, as Peter Morales put it, to be “the religion for our time.”
Hope is not theoretical. It is about making choices informed by a commitment to building something worthy of our hope and energy.  As it turns out, it really is a great theme for this month and every month.