Melanie Crutchfield was inspired by the 2012 London Olympics to start, “Hope 2012: A Blog Relay,” in which she and a few of her blogging friends would blog about hope and invite others to do the same. I do not know Melanie. Nevertheless, her plan seems to be working as I was invited to participate in Hope Blog Relay by my friend Michael J. Altman (by way of Edward J. Blum, by way of TheChurchStateGuy, by way of Melanie herself).
The timing could not have been more perfect for me. As I am writing this reflection, I am sitting in Dulles Airport waiting for my connecting flight home from a fabulous trek to Johannesburg, South Africa, where I helped facilitate a Youth Summit of African-American, South African, and Ghanaian Christian teens who participate in a program called the Youth Hope Builders Academy, started out of the International Denominational Center in Atlanta, Georgia by Dr. Anne E. Streaty Wimberly.
As we spent the week teaching, discussing, listening, reflecting, and practicing “hope, hospitality, and healing” (the theme of the summit), we developed some interesting observations about the nature of hope. I am convinced that hope is communal virtue. By that, I mean that it is almost impossible to maintain hope when one is or feels alone. It is too easy to fall into despair when facing the challenges of the day, both personal and social. The knowledge that I have empathetic friends, supportive colleagues, caring mentors, and access to wise, blogging “experts” provides me a sense of relief that I am not alone, that there have been others who have similar experiences to me, and will at the very least provide words of comfort as I struggle to meet life’s challenges. It makes me want to do the same, to extend the same hospitality to others. This, for me, is how you build hope through a web of interpersonal connections that may be as intimate as familial or as remote as comments on a blog. It may build up inside the hearts of those united by shared experience of social oppression or it may appear in the midnight hour to someone’s fleeting efforts to connect digitally with anyone who might know the pain that she is feeling in that particular moment.
I have hope that I can complete my dissertation because so many have done it before me and so many are lifting me up in tangible (thanks for the fellowship, FTE and guidance, mentors) and intangible (thanks for the prayers, family) ways. In turn, I build up the hope of my colleagues and future scholars by making myself available for questions, concerns, laments, and support. The hospitality that I have found in my social networks have been invaluable in keeping me hopeful; hopeful about my future, hopeful about my chosen profession (even in the face of contrary evidence), and hopeful about the future of humanity.
My advice to those who are lacking hope is to build a network of hopeful people who affirm you and what you are trying to accomplish, while at the same time challenge you to be and do better. I learned a long time ago that, in the words of Velma Kelly of Chicago fame, “I can’t do it alone.” If you build your social network of hope-builders and contribute to and participate in it, you may find that hope is not as elusive at it seems to be.