Where Hope Is Pinned

“Is anybody feeling hopeful about the world right now?” a friend recently asked me. 

Maybe I should have responded with empathy for her sense of hopelessness, but she asked the question so sincerely that my honest answer flew right out of my mouth. “Yes!” I responded. “I am.”

And it’s true. In spite of everything, I’m hopeful—excited, even—about what’s coming. I genuinely believe that good things are in store for us. 

Then I wonder if I’m just being naive. Or maybe it’s my privilege talking. Or maybe, since I have bipolar disorder, it’s just a touch of mania coming on, a bit of biochemical detachment from reality. 

Or could my optimism possibly be… real hope? 

Real hope is what I feel when I think about Taylor Stewart, a young Black friend of mine who is full of passion to make things right. Taylor founded the Oregon Remembrance Project, which aims to memorialize local victims of injustice. He’s working to abolish Oregon’s death penalty. And he dreams that one day, this state that was founded with an anti-Black exclusion clause in its constitution will become truly welcoming and genuinely hospitable to all. Taylor gives me hope. 

Real hope is what I feel when I think about Nancy Slavin, a White friend of mine who runs our county’s chapter of Standing Up for Racial Justice. Month in and month out, Nancy sends emails, convenes meetings, and organizes White people in our community to come together around just causes. Nancy is a networker who knows everybody, sees the good in everybody, and will help anybody who needs anything to find anyone else who can help them out. Nancy gives me hope. 

Real hope is what I feel when I think about Annessa Hartman, a Native American woman from my small town who’s recently been elected as the third ever Indigenous person to serve in the Oregon State House of Representatives. Over the past few years, I’ve watched as Annessa has moved from school board member to city councilwoman to state representative. In each position, she’s worked hard to represent every member of her constituency. With each election, she’s garnered more and more support from our community. Annessa gives me hope. 

When I think about these three members of my community—just regular people, doing what comes next—I am filled with awe. There’s so much to be hopeful about. 

Someone else recently filled me with real hope, too. Just when I didn’t expect it. At first, when a neighbor approached me to discuss something I’d said about racial justice, I was filled with anxiety. I knew she and I did not see eye-to-eye about politics. I figured she just wanted to argue. 

And that is what happened, at first. “Racism isn’t a problem anymore,” this White woman informed me. “We need to stop focusing on it so much.” 

So I tried to make my case for why I believe it is important to focus on racial justice. And we found ourselves in something like an argument. She didn’t believe me. I didn’t understand her. We didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. 

But then, my neighbor did something that surprised me. She broke into prayer. Standing right there next to her car, she started praying out loud. 

“God,” she said, “if I’m wrong… if there is something about this issue that I’m not getting, if there’s something you want me to understand… show me. I’m willing to learn. Help me to see it differently. Let me know.”

And that was it. We ended the conversation. There was no bolt of lightning. This happened several months ago, and I’m not yet aware of any particular response to my neighbor’s prayer. As far as I know, she still believes that racism isn’t especially a problem. 

But that prayer gives me real hope, because it reminds me where real hope is pinned. If anything is going to change—if we’re going to see more justice and greater peace in our lifetimes—that movement is going to come from an unexpected source. It’s going to come through the work of the Taylors and Nancys and Annessas of the world, yes. But ultimately, it’s going to come from God. 

God is the one who changes hearts and minds. God is the one who opens eyes and ears. God is the one who, I believe, will answer my neighbor’s prayer. 

So I’m watching and waiting—expectantly, hopefully—to see what will happen when He does.

By Sarah Sanderson 

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