Sunday, April 18, 2010

Choosing Hope

I will never forget striding down Main St in Highland Park on that gloriously sunny Election Day morning 18 months ago. It was only the fourth morning since my cancer diagnosis and yet I was filled with an overwhelming sense of hope. I felt that what was going on in the country was a reflection of what could happen for me. It wasn't that everything was going to be perfect from now on. There were no guarantees of anything – not for me and not for us. But there was hope where there had not been any. It was a new day and upside potentials seemed attainable again.

My strut that morning is perfectly explained by a quote from a terrific book by Jim Wallis called "God's Politics". "More than just a moral issue, hope is a spiritual and even religious choice. Hope is not a feeling; it is a decision. And the decision for hope is based on what you believe at the deepest levels – what your most basic convictions are about the world and what the future holds – all based on your faith. You can choose hope, not as a na├»ve wish, but as a choice, with your eyes wide open to the reality of the world – just like the cynics who have not made the decision for hope." The idea that hope is a choice and a reflection of faith is very empowering to me both personally and politically.

Even though it has been a couple of weeks since the milestone of some progress on health care in this great country of ours – the luster has not faded. That milestone represents some of the hope becoming a reality. And that is really important! For me personally, it could turn out to be critical. I have a "pre-existing condition". My health-care employer is eliminating 15% of it workforce. (It's called "value capture" after a merger.) It is not far-fetched to see that I could be unemployed with that pre-existing condition. That would be a very difficult situation for me and my family to face. Many have had their hopes challenged, faith tested and lives ruined by similar scenarios in the richest nation on earth.

I've seen that decision for hope play out well, with God's help, when it came to my physical health. That decision was based on my deepest beliefs, my faith. To live with cancer is to live every day with faith. It is that same way that our deepest beliefs are playing out politically. Do you believe we should take care of our poor, our uninsured, sick? To answer those questions we need to need to check in with our faith. Take that Sunday (or Friday or Saturday) faith and apply it everyday. Apply it to your neighbor. Not just the ones you know but the ones you don't.

Consider too, the alternate to deciding to hope. It would mean, for me, creating a more fallow space for my cancer to thrive. It means a world where it is every man, woman and child for themselves; a survival of the fittest or most blessed. It means accepting less than the kingdom of God here on earth, now. Is that really the path we choose? I don't.

The opposite of cynicism isn't blind optimism but action. And action requires a decision based on hope. Let's all strut proudly with our heads up, knowing we have decided on hope, are taking care of our neighbors and living our faith.