Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that
if you just show up and try to do the right thing,
the dawn will come. You wait and watch and
work: You don’t give up. – Anne Lamott
If Anne Lamott is correct, then the past year has been filled with countless opportunities for hope to begin. Darkness seemed to wait around each corner—and yet there continued to be the possibility of new dawns.
Let me share just a few examples from what I’ve come to refer to as the year of the four Cs—canine, COVID, cancer, and change.
In February my canine buddy Wilbur ruptured a disc. I had to decide about surgery that might or might not restore the use of his hind legs. The first two weeks of Wilbur’s post-surgery recovery were pretty dark. He was unable to walk—much less run, jump, or navigate stairs. But hope began to emerge as Wilbur slowly returned to his old self. Each time he seemed to reach the limit of his recovery, he would surprise me. And through it all, he never lost heart. He reminded me almost daily about the importance of not giving up.
Then came COVID. Rhode Island was hit early by the virus. In response we curtailed much of our in-person contact—whether in schools, businesses, neighborhoods, or houses of worship. Darkness came in the form of fear, isolation, illness, and uncertainty. But hope also came as frontline workers demonstrated courage and commitment; teachers modeled creativity and care; and faith communities bore witness to conviction and compassion. Working with pastors and other congregational leaders as they sought to provide virtual opportunities for worship and community, as well as pastoral care in the face of great grief and distance, reminded me on a regular basis about the power of hope to usher in the dawn.
In late May during a regular mammogram, the doctor noticed something, which turned out to be a small malignant tumor. The summer and early fall included successful surgery and what may have been the world’s easiest round of radiation. Although the word “cancer” can trigger a deep darkness, I experienced a profound sense of hope that dawned from my gratitude for early detection, gifted medical professionals, and the realization that—unlike too many others in our country—I was fortunate to have adequate health insurance. Traveling that journey step by step also instilled a new sense of the importance of waiting without giving up.
Change also colored my professional life this year. Our staff underwent significant transition. All the initiatives and programs I had planned for the year had to be postponed or cancelled. But in the midst of what could have been a dark period, opportunities to try new approaches and introduce different offerings burst out on a regular basis. Those opportunities have resulted in some of the most creative and meaningful ministry I’ve experienced—both in my role with our region and as transitional pastor for one of our congregations this summer.
My hope is that—despite any darkness you may have experienced this year—dawn also has come for you. At this time of the year, may we celebrate the dawn that comes as God’s light enters our lives and world anew.