If a girl is walking along a sidewalk and loses some change from a hole in her pocket, the solution is simple. You walk up to her, and say, "Here, you dropped some change. Here are your nickels and Pocahontas dollar."
"You mean Sacagawea?" she'll ask.
"Well, whichever one is the real person," you'll say.
"They're both real," she'll say, "but only one is on the dollar."
"Whatever, Smarty Pants." And then you should leave with her nickels.
Okay, maybe this would only happen to me. I find Native American history very confusing.
|How hard would it be to write her name on there, Government Money Guy?|
But my point is, if a person drops their change, the change is on the ground. The substance of the money hasn't changed, only the location is different. You can help them by picking it up and handing it to them.
Not so with hope. Hope mystifies me a bit. If someone loses their hope, the hope seems to change properties as it leaves them. As a person loses hope, it turns into hopelessness. And what can you do with hopelessness? You can't turn it into hope and hand it back to them. Hopelessness seems such an empty, useless, hollow thing.
Hopelessness can be hard to identify. Hopelessness doesn't announce "Help. I have run out of hope." Hopelessness can be quiet or loud. It might look like anything: anger, malaise, depression or just a laissez-faire "eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die" attitude. Hopelessness may be concealed under the veneer of carrying-on-fairly-competently-with-life. And that worries me. Because how do you know how someone truly is inside? Sometimes I tell myself a situation is hopeless, I even feel hopeless, but even in the darkest times (so far), I sense that I'm not 100% hopeless. And in the case of hope, a percentage point or two makes all the difference.
How do you know when someone is down to 0%? Or getting close fast?
I don't know.
Honestly, it scares me a bit that I don't know, and that probably, you don't either. Or maybe you do. You knew that Sacajawea thing. But in case you don't, what do we do?
Watch people more closely? Look them in the eyes? Move more carefully around each other? Pray a lot? Listen more? Oh man, I need to listen so so much more than I do.
I like these words from David Whyte's poem "The Winter of Listening." They seem to fit:
"All those years
has its own voice
All those years
you can belong
simply by listening"
These aren't magic answers, but they can't hurt
Especially if hopelessness wants to be found. I suspect it does.
And that gives me hope.