Mary Beth Writes

Last Sunday our congregation met in real time at an outdoor amphitheater along the Fox River. Everyone brought their own chairs and we social distanced like the thoughtfully PC UU’s we are. It was lovely to be together again.

Also, being outside certainly added humor and intrigue. The service coincidentally started as three WWII Texan airplanes were flying a round-and-round tour over town. Two freight trains rumbled past about 35 feet behind us. Weather predictions said the day would be lovely, and it was - later that day. The morning itself was enthusiastically blustery. David, our minister and Meg, assistant ring master, and Alex, magical musician, were wild-eyed but dignified as they caught flying stuff. Unitarian Universalists start all services by lighting a chalice; that sure didn’t work as smoothly as it does inside a building. Meg eventually leaned over and just removed the glass chimney to let the flame go out before the whole thing tumbled and started a forest fire on the liturgy table.

After that it was pretty calm except for the buzzards and hawks overhead and also the wasps (hah) which only plagued the officiants. I heard later that Meg got stung. She does not jump and slap her body and swear like I do when stung (at least not when she is in front of a congregation.I know her pretty well and imagine she is not always that dignified when wasps attack). We the congregation watched them discreetly swat with decorum.

Like I say, it was great. We hadn’t been together since March and I doubt we will convene again until deep into next year. Although there was live-cam for those who watched for home, many of us were there. I should say that “many” for a UU congregation is something around 50. It feels like more because (IMHO) most UU’s tend to have enough personality for 1.5 to 2 humans a piece.

I can’t tell you everything David said because, as you can surmise, I was somewhat distracted. I do love buzzards over a congregation. Very Game of Thrones.

But Dave did talk about hope, I remember that. He was talking about what we need to live in times like these as well as what our foremothers and forefathers needed to get through their times. He talked about more than just hope, but when he said it, my mind stayed there and from here on out, you have my thoughts.

Hope is one of those sanctimonious words that invite lofty-mindedness. Possibly I sat through too many church services in my life, where hope gets thrown around like batting averages in a play-by-play. Hope is one of those holy words I learned to ignore unless we are talking about whether there will be dessert tonight or what I think about when you tell me that someone you love is hurt or sick. I hope then, but it is not High and Holy hope. It’s just the garden variety wishing for things to be nice and then nicer.

This week, thinking about hope, two things struck me.

1. When you hope – are you hoping things get better for others? Or are you hoping things improve so that YOU don’t have to feel so sorry or irritated or agitated?

Is hope about us or is it about a situation outside of our opinions?

Ex: When I hear about conditions in our border ICE concentration camps - forced hysterectomies? Children in cages?, I become furious. This administration took an unjust situation and made it so much worse.

If I am going to talk about hope for people stuck in our American gulag; it’s probably important for me to understand that my craving for revenge is not the same as hope is for those humans who are actually there. If I want to be even one particle of effective, I will probably think and act more clearly if I consider and respect what their hope is instead of putting my energy into taking care of my anger.

Do you know what I mean? Whatever we choose to do on behalf of others, it would be good for us try to support their hope, as much as we can listen to them and understand what that is.

This might be part of moving away from our white privilege.

2. This is pretty simple but seems interesting to me. Most of our hopes are small and true.

I hope my wasp sting from yesterday (yes, I swatted and swore) stops itching today. I support my hope by alternating Benadryl ointment, a steroid cream, an antibiotic cream. I hope the weird red patch gets better  and goes away (it is). I am making choices towards my hope; I’m not just wishing without acting.

I have a bunch of small and midsized hopes by which I get through today and most of my days. I hope I will finish writing this (I’m on day #4). I hope my kids are okay today (they are). I hope my cousins like the pictures of our grandparents that I found and sent.

I hope the library books I ordered today are more interesting than the ones I ordered last week. ‘The Dutch House’ by Ann Patchett was amazing. The mystery books by writers new to me, well, they were uninteresting at best. Some might have been good for swatting wasps had they been at hand when needed.

But Patchett’s “The Dutch House” was gripping to read, and it pertains to my thinking about hope.

In the story, two kids’ mother abandons them early in their lives. Their not-warm father provides for them. The hired women who cook and clean are the warmest characters in their childhood. Then the father marries a difficult and grasping woman who when she is widowed, evicts the kids from their childhood home.

They spend most of the adult lives trying to ignore the holes in their heart from the loss of parents and home. They also, in various ways, work very hard to avenge themselves against the awful stepmother.

I’ve probably told you too much already, but if you grew up not completely accepted and loved by people who should have done that, this novel peels that onion again.

Neither character understands nor deals with the craziness of their early life. They cling to each other emotionally which ensures they never get too close to others. They miss amazing careers because they move towards education and then jobs that will irritate the stepmom.

They do not live by hope. They make choices, consciously and unconsciously, that keep circling their early losses. They live for revenge. Not big ugly Shakespearean revenge plots, but the everyday kind of self-sabotage humans do to themselves and the people they love, because dealing backwards motivates them more profoundly than moving forward.

To know what you want to do in a day is the work of hope. What animals to watch for, what bike trail to explore, what treat to find or cook and eat, what project to work at, what job to fulfill, what cause to fight for, what past to leave behind.

It is the work of hope to find hope.

...

“Hope” is the thing with feathers  by Emily Dickinson

 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -

That perches in the soul -

And sings the tune without the words -

And never stops - at all -

 

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -

And sore must be the storm -

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm -

 

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -

And on the strangest Sea -

Yet - never - in Extremity,

It asked a crumb - of me.

 

 

 

Comments

And the sermon they hear. Lovely Thanks
Mary Beth's picture

Hah... Remember when I would write all those columns in the JT - and people would love me for my cat columns? What we say and what we hear...

Wonderful insights
Mary Beth's picture

Thank you.

Emily Dickinson, Ann Patchett, and Mary Beth. All writers I love to read and who make me think.
Mary Beth's picture

Thank you!

Thank you. Hope is my mantra, in the small things and in the really big things. Hope sustains me. Hope. I just finished The Dutch House; and like you thoroughly, enjoyed it. How I wanted to hug those two! With hope, Patricia/FL
Mary Beth's picture

That book has strong similarities to situations in my and Len's family. What struck me so hard was that, from the outside, as adults they were very competent and successful. How many people do we live among who are living to protect their little kid inner lives? How many of my rituals and habits are for the little kid I once was?

I like the idea that we need to do things, even little things, and make choices to try to support making our hopes happen. I read the book Everything is Figureoutable and there was some of that kind of stuff in there. We can't fix everything but we can help figure out what to do with what we have to help even a little bit, or to help another person know we want to help them figure it out with them. I guess that's the old eternal optimist in me, but it's kind of hard to be super optimistic these days, that's for sure. I hope that November 4 is a good day... I am going to keep trying to figure out little ways to support that hope:)
Mary Beth's picture

When our brand-new-to-us Becky dog ate your shoe - and you said "No Problem, I really like these shoes so I have several more pairs at home exactly the same." I still laugh at how amazing that was. You are a problem solving treasure.

Yes, I remember --- those shoes were really cheap, so it was easy to have a few pairs. Plus, they were white, and you know I had to keep washing them! I still do those crazy things --- when I find cozy shirts or around the house lounging stuff really cheap, I buy a few --- because being cozy is pretty important these days!

Reading this about Becky made me smile, she was a really good dog!
Mary Beth's picture

We have a big photo of her big face in our closet. And if you do Twitter, my icon/avatar whatever those little pictures are- is Becky. She was pure smart love.

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