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The morning after... Reflections on 'Figures of Hope'

Waking up this morning had such an ominous feeling. The sky is completely blanketed with gray, with not even a glimmer of sun piercing through. The day looks like what the mind feels like when hope is lost. It’s a space that travels from your mind throughout your entire body, covering the light until there is none left to see. And it’s a sad and devastating place to be. We love when the sun comes out because it represents that feeling of finding hope again. It reminds us that the darkness doesn’t last forever. Yet for a moment, it is required to stay in this place because it pushes us to a place of self-confrontation in life’s journey that we would otherwise detour, at all costs.

When hope dies, when a symbol of hope dies, you cannot help but wonder if that same hope will ever be resurrected. To become a representation of hope requires a level of self-sacrifice that I would imagine few onlookers would understand. We have seen sacrificing of relationships. Sacrificing health Sacrificing the simple pleasures to endure on behalf of someone else. The actuality of one’s sacrifice is what stirs the symbology of hope.

In 2020, we’ve lost several key figures who gave that to the world. Kobe Bryant, John Lewis, and now Chadwick Boseman. Their lives, their service, their craft, their discipline, their dedication, their tenacity, their courage. They gave each of us so much of themselves so that we could dare to believe we could find these same parts within ourselves and impart it to others in the ways they did.

This year has also given us those who in life were not known by the masses, but whose deaths sparked a revival of hope as well. If hope is not always born through life, it can be fueled by death. This year has introduced the majority to the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. These tragedies in death have taught us something unique about hope. These names in particular, reminded us that hope can be birthed from despair, despite these two often being seen as antithetical to each other.

In the same way that despair can breed hope, faith can be birthed from fear. And in most cases, the latter usually requires and demands from the former. How can we know what to hope for, what it feels like, if we have never known despair? How can we understand faith if we have never been acquainted with fear or doubt?

Those who become figures of hope, in life or death, have never not known tragedy. John Lewis, from the time of his youth, endured physical beatings in the fight for freedom and justice, and spent a lifetime in this same fight; A fight that is often very lonely, very isolating and very taxing. Kobe Bryant sacrificed his time to master the form of artistic expression through basketball, that he was gifted to give back to the world, and continued to give back in service until his tragic death. Chadwick Boseman, while battling stage 3 cancer, gave of himself to masterfully represent key figures in Black American history, and channeled this same artistry to embody and make real for an entire generation a fictitious hero who represented the same hope for the future that these historic figures did for our past.

Hope is born from despair because that despair, the grief is what humbles us to the place of gratitude that the trivialities of life often strive to squeeze out of us, if we’re not careful. Grief, although painstaking simultaneously has the ability to pull from the space within each of us that dares to believe there has to more. The courage to believe that it has to get better. The need to push and redeem what or who were lost, even if that redemption doesn’t come back in the same form. Out of the ashes, there can be beauty and whether in life or death, hope can be rebirthed because none of us like to stay beneath a cloudy sky for too long. Life demands that the sun will come out again, no matter how long it takes.

To the men and women we’ve lost, we celebrate your lives, we mourn your deaths, and we thank you for giving us hope, and giving us something to hope in. Let us be reminded today, and every day that hope, as is life, are fragile and we have to demand from ourselves, and from each other to keep it stirred up. Tragedies and victories often bring us to that place, but let us strive to maintain this same hope even in the mundane spaces of life. There will always be grief, but that means there will always be hope. We will always have cloudy days, but that means we will always find the sun. Today I am choosing hope, and I pray you do too!

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