The Weight of Hope

 

My friend Sandi and I went to the climate strike two weeks ago in downtown LA. We were some of the oldest people there. A teenage girl with long black hair gripped a large white poster board with her message to the world. Each word rested on lines she’d drawn across the board. The lines reminded me of my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Wilson, her hand cupped around mine, as I shaped the cursive letters of my name.

I imagined this young girl bent over her blank poster board, a thin tipped sharpie in one hand, her other hand holding the paper in place, as she formed each letter slowly and deliberately.  

She flipped her hair over her shoulders and I read her words.

“I’m not sure I want to be here anymore.”

My eyes swiveled back to the words again and again like a bad car wreck. By ‘here’ did she mean, this earth, this life, this existence? I wanted to ask her, but I knew I’d start to cry the minute I opened my mouth. My throat was tight from holding back the tears.

When I was her age I thumbed through the pages of Seventeen magazine, dreamt about kissing David Loring and knew that college, marriage and kids were the likely trajectory of my future.

Of all the poster boards that day, hers was the one that stayed with me. It wasn’t the fanciest, cleverest or most artistic. Just nine precisely lettered words on a white board written with a black sharpie.

It was that she began with, ‘I’m not sure…’ It felt so genuine, like she was thinking out loud, searching for a lifeline, a shred of hope. It seemed to say, ‘Give me something, anything and I’ll stick it out.’

I wanted to wrap that young girl in my arms, hold her tight against so much uncertainty and destruction. But there was nothing I could think to say to soothe her soul, nothing that wasn’t a lie. I wanted to promise her a future. But that was not a promise I could deliver on.   

I walked away that day thinking about hope. How much I’ve depended on it to carry me forward. How the tiniest blade of grass poking through a crack in the sidewalk buoys me. How sometimes I wield hope like a shield to hold my fear, grief and powerlessness at bay.

I draw lines across a page. No one holds my hand. I take up a thin tipped sharpie and write the words, ‘I’m not sure about hope anymore.’ Tears fall on the page and black ink runs in rivulets until the words disappear.

 

16 comments on “The Weight of Hope

  1. Thanks, Davia for your sincere thoughts and feelings. We are in this because the problems we face in climate change are not ‘optional’. From that perspective, there’s really no doubt for me that we will prevail. There are a lot of signs for hope, suggesting that American attitudes, and attitudes all over the world, are maturing in regard to this issue. But we need to keep speaking the truth, and patiently shining light and understanding in spite of the many barriers to communication, and working effectively with our government to enact fair and effective climate policy. No one is going to do this for us.

  2. If hope becomes impossible, it’s not your or the little girl’s fault. It is someone’s, some (fan) group’s, some some industry’s, some governments’ fault. At some point, if hope truly becomes impossible, maybe it needs to change into another emotion. The good ones need to remain motivated, not removed from the struggle.

  3. Powerful Davia. I, too use hope to keep moving forward in the face of all that is broken. I can’t imagine losing hope… other than for a moment or two. When things turn dark, I seek out hope as a lifeline because the alternative is unconfrontable. At 65yo I’ve become skillful at doing so. I’m not sure I’d have been so facile at her age.

  4. Thanks for your thoughts. So sorry about your sister. Good to have you back. It is an uphill battle. Stop by and visit soon.

  5. I so resonate with this Davia! It made me cry just like you. Every little bit of hope is what keeps me moving forward but you’re right I fear I might lose hope one day. Love you Davia for the stories you tell that I cannot put into words myself.

  6. Thank you for re-awakening my determination to persevere. My integrity needs to know that I kept on trying my best to turn us around towards sustainability.

  7. I love you my friend. That’s the first thing that comes to mind… The second thing is to say thank you for your steadfast commitment to our planet. Maybe Obama had it right when he said “the audacity of hope“?
    I don’t know… I do know that we are in very challenging dark times… But there’s always light to be had to be seen to be experienced… It’s just a little harder to find lately. But it’s there just the same. Like for example… You are A huge light… Grateful to know you. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

  8. Davia, thank you for your writing! When I feel such despair in being so connected to as big a challenge as the climate crisis, I think of a quote from Buddhist Philosopher and environmental activist leader/teacher Joanna Macy:
    “I’m not insisting that we be brimming with hope. It’s OK not to be optimistic. Buddhist teachings say feeling that you have to maintain hope can wear you out. So just be present. The biggest gift you can give is to be absolutely present. And when you’re worrying about whether you’re hopeful or hopeless or pessimistic or optimistic, who cares? The main thing is that you’re showing up, that you’re here, and that you’re finding ever more capacity to love this world because it will not be healed without that. That was what is going to unleash our intelligence and our ingenuity and our solidarity for the healing of our world.”

    • Oh Dan! Thank you for that quote from Joanna Macy. Yes!!! This is new for me–letting go of hope and optimism. It’s even liberating! But it is also very challenging to speak that truth. I get a lot of pushback. It disturbs people. It unnerves people to think about setting down the hope banner. What a ride–right!

      • You’re welcome. I’ve felt worn out countless times trying to hold onto hope. Then I think of other multigenerational struggles, such as civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, gun violence, that seem so intractable, i.le. “it’s how we’re wired (especially men, I believe). I remember how many ordinary people made leaps in progress happen, and appreciate what a small but equal part I play in the effort.
        BTW: What’s a “Ride-right”?

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