Ted Grimsrud—Purpose vol. 45, no. 8 (August 2012), p. 28.
In a class I teach, we recently hosted a guest speaker who talked movingly of her commitment to peace on earth, a commitment that has taken her around the world and has led to several arrests and much despair.
She showed us pictures of several of her friends who have been recently tortured due to their peace work. She talked about working with young people in warzones who display amazing resilience in continuing to imagine meaningful futures—and who face tremendous odds in getting there.
She talked most passionately about the lack of peace in the Middle East—and the likelihood that things may get even worse before they get better.
So, the students asked what about hope. How do you keep on in your work—work clearly based on compassion, caring, empathy? To share lovingly one has to have hope. You can’t just act on force of will.
Our speaker did mention the importance of simply believing that compassion, caring, and empathy are true. When we live our lives based on these values, we will find it meaningful regardless of the forces that make them difficult to embody. We will find something hopeful and empowering simply in tapping into such a fundamental truth of the universe our compassionate God created.
But she went on to talk about the need to celebrate. Even in the face of pain and suffering and brokenness, sometimes we see progress. Sometimes people who have been enemies find ways to reconcile. Sometimes children from alienated communities, even from faith communities with histories of enmity, are allowed to learn to know each other and become friends. Sometimes out of pain comes creative art that captures something of life’s beauty.
And when such moments of light shine forth, she insisted, they need to be celebrated. Such celebrations—planned or spontaneous—don’t take away the seriousness of the challenges to make peace in our broken world. In fact, what they do is empower us to continue to look the challenges straight on—and, to find strength to seek to meet them.
Of course, sometimes “celebrations” can seem like whistling in the dark, especially when they are not linked with on-going commitment to (in Bruce Cockburn’s words) “kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight.” But when we do stay in the struggle, the moments of joy, the moments of giving praise, the moments simply of embracing one another, are sources of life.