Hope: What Stories Will We Tell About 2020?
A single ray of light peaks over the horizon as if quietly unsure if it should proceed, but it takes the initiative. Slowly a warm glow follows in its course. The darkness of the night’s sky says good morning and farewell. The cold, crisp darkness slowly retreats with a grace that paints the stars with a warm vibrant cotton candy blanket.
This morning’s sunrise takes me back to my favorite poem, “The Sun Never Says, by Hafiz (Khwajeh Shams al-Din Muhammad Hafez-e Shirazi). He writes,
Even after all this time, the sun never says to the Earth, “You owe me”
Look what happens with a love like that, it lights the whole sky.
Like that first ray of morning light, I see and read of people around the world taking that single initiative, and slowly the world is beginning to shine in unison. Humanity, in interfaith solidarity, unblinded by prejudice, is working to help pull a shining blanket of hope, love and wellness around the Earth to heal and comfort the very soul of this planet. However, they are doing this not led by a government or celebrity initiative or order—We are coming together in such a way that cannot be ordered or commanded. There is an innate calling that in this crisis, also in this stillness, our brothers and sisters around the globe can hear and respond—not react to.
I find myself among many, catching myself in the moment of ‘reacting,’ perhaps getting angry with the media, the government or God. But reactions will only raise blood pressure, diminish progress and signal the reception of darkness. However, when we ‘respond,’ we process. We obtain clarity. We ground ourselves in the situation. We create conditions to light beacons of hope.
Even the smallest of words can create the grandest waves of change.
“When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed in his speech, "Where Do We Go From Here?” delivered at the Eleventh Annual Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1967.
I bring into light Dr. King’s words for I feel they are relevant more than ever. Not because the very framework of humanity is fractured but because, we are at a point where we can examine how we want to piece civilization back together as this new dawn rises from the depths of our sorrows. 2020 will be forever known for its pandemic, but we, if in solidarity choose, can have it be remembered as the year the world came together in unison, creating a melody of hope so beautiful it hushed the morning songbird.
As this global crisis continues to shed light on the inadequacies and “quick fixes” of our past, it is also revealing a newfound hope and sense of togetherness that is emerging intrinsically to mend and unite. Again, I cling to and echo the words of Dr. King’s speech 60 years ago.
“In spite of the tensions and uncertainties of our age something profoundly meaningful has begun. Old systems of exploitation and oppression are passing away and new systems of justice and equality are being born.” King stated in his Pilgrimage of Nonviolence in Chicago, Apr. 16, 1960. “In a real sense ours is a great time in which to be alive. Therefore, I am not yet discouraged about the future. Granted that the easygoing optimism of yesterday is impossible. Granted that we face a world crisis which often leaves us standing amid the surging murmur of life’s restless sea. But every crisis has both its dangers and its opportunities. Each can spell either salvation or doom. In a dark, confused world the spirit of God may yet reign supreme.”
As King explains, each crisis has both its dangers and opportunities, we must take an advantage of this global stillness. I understand the need to try to make light of this crisis by dubbing it, “the new normal.” It is not normal and frankly, the world needs less normal. Normal is defined as expected, the usual—ordinary. One does not grow from normal. Normal is what keeps us in the past. It clouds our judgement; it diminishes hope and creates stagnant, toxic energy. Despite the dark cloud of death that weighs heavy with this pandemic, there is an underlying silver truth—rebirth.
We are the authors of our own story, and we are connected in more ways than I think we’ll ever truly understand. But, through this crisis, the world is beginning to care less about understanding and is putting more emphasis on acceptance and building of bridges. We are seeing this from all corners of the world.
“The need for interfaith partnership will continue beyond this crisis, and that is why we continue to work hard to build more bridges of understanding and cooperation,” shared Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League in an interview with Al Monitor, March 29, 2020. “And, that is why we continue to work hard to build more bridges of understanding and cooperation, and to remove the artificial fences created by detachment from each other and exacerbated by the lack of substantive dialogue in the past.”
We are living in a time our children and grandchildren will read about in history books. One day when they reflect on the past, “What were you doing then?” or “How was it?”—what stories will we have to tell them? Let them be ones of hope and solidarity.