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Posts Tagged ‘hope’

  1. I’m the Captain of this Ship Now

    May 12, 2014 by Diane


    You start off with a nice little sailboat.

    You’re bobbing along, enjoying the cool breeze, watching the white gulls dive for fish. You’re kicking back and gazing up at a brilliant blue sky that seems endless.

    Then life dumps a crate on board, and another, and another, and each crate seems heavier than the one before. Eventually you need a barge to haul them all. Before you know it, black clouds have thundered in, obliterating that infinite blue. You’re riding a roller coaster of gray-green water and you’re barely hanging on–unable to even navigate. You’re headed to the middle of nowhere on a freight that’s loaded down, sinking.

    I have a friend who is stuck on just such a freighter.

    I hesitated to write on this topic. There’s nothing amusing about breast cancer and skin cancer and having no health insurance. There’s nothing laughable about a lack of income, or pets that become chronically ill, or unrelenting anxiety, or landlords that boot you out when they sell their property. There’s nothing cheery about roommates that die, leaving you to find their body.

    Life is weighing down my friend with one crate after another, and it felt too raw to write about.

    Then I took a walk in the neighborhood. I noticed a crumpled dollar bill on the sidewalk and thought,  it’s my lucky day! As I bent to pick it up, I had this flash:

    The only way lighten the load is to fill those crates with all the good things in life.

    It might take ten, twenty, a hundred good things to balance out one of the bad, but stockpile them anyway. It might take a freight-load of willpower and gumption and stamina to find something to uplift you, but look for it anyway. The Law of Attraction might be nothing more than a fantasy, but fantasize anyway. Seek out each moment that makes you feel happy anyway. Go out of your way to gravitate to the good, because the other stuff is easy to stumble over. And little by little you’ll turn that barge around. You’ll rise up, lighter in spirit, and raise a fist Scarlett-style, and vow: “As God is my witness, I refuse to be licked. I’m the captain of this ship now. And I’m turning this monster around.”

    We can’t change what life hands us, but we can choose to view ourselves as lucky instead of cursed. We can’t stop the rain (and we need it to grow, anyway), but we can hold onto the knowledge that above the dark clouds the sky is always an everlasting blue.

  2. When Innocence Wore Your Brother’s Baseball Glove

    April 28, 2014 by Diane

    baseball glove

    There was a time when young men went courting. They knocked on the front door carrying a bouquet of flowers, greeted the parents, and waited in the alcove by the coat rack, filling the space with their maleness. They guided the blushing girl out the door with the lightest touch at the small of her back, and then began a series of door openings: the car door, the restaurant door, the door to the movie theater, the door to the Fountain and Grill for a milkshake, back to the car, to the front door, and then — a hover, a wait. Maybe a brush of lips against hers, then the tip of a hat and a jaunty stride to the car, waving over the hood before getting in and driving off.

    Those were the days.

    The days when innocence wore your brother’s baseball glove, your father’s aftershave, your sister’s hairpins, your mother’s face powder. When innocence smoked your uncle’s cigars and played your cousin’s board game.

    Those were the days when families talked over the dinner table instead of the blare of the television, when they gathered by the radio while mom clicked her knitting needles and pop smoked his pipe and the dog wagged his doggy tail.

    Those were the days when the good life meant a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence; a newspaper boy who delivered the news smack onto the front porch; a milkman who delivered a fresh bottle and hauled away the empties. It meant someone was there to tuck you in at night, to leave a light on in the hallway and the door open a crack. It meant falling asleep to the comforting murmur of your parents’ voices, maybe the faint strains of Artie Shaw on the radio.

    Not a bad scene. Not a bad scene at all.

    When did the stars begin to fall through the cracks? When did the stranger on the street become a prowler with bad intentions instead of a Fuller Brush man trying to make a decent living for his wife and kids?

    What happened to those carefree, innocent days?

    Maybe they weren’t so carefree after all. Maybe it’s just a trick of the memory, flickering images from old Hollywood. Maybe it’s a view of the world seen through the lens of my television, which only airs one station, now that the winds have interfered with all the other stations. One station. The one where everyone is perfectly content to Leave it to Beaver.

    I could invest in cable. The land of Suburgatory and The Sopranos.

    But, nah.

    I prefer the version of America before it outgrew mom, apple pie and baseball.

  3. Sunday After the Shootings

    January 27, 2014 by Diane

    white church

    On Sunday after the shootings, a small Midwestern community gathered in their local church, stunned by the news reports. They murmured in groups as they filed in, the children tethered to their mother’s hands. From the pulpit Father O’Hare gazed out at his congregation, at their tight faces, the men with their blazing eyes, the children squirming in their mother’s embrace. He knew the evil that had consumed that young shooter; he knew the evil because it brushed against him now—that out of control anger—and he sensed it in his parish, felt it wafting through, clinging to the men with their tense jaws and the women clutching their children with fierceness.

    Father O’Hare asked them all to rise, to sing Nearer, My God, to Thee. Even Joe Peterson, who never sang, held the hymnal and bellowed the words. After the last note Mrs. Smith at the organ dabbed her eyes and folded her hands in her lap, and the choir in their blue robes sank down.

    “It is with heavy hearts that we are gathered here today,” Father O’Hare began. “And our prayers are with the families of the wee victims. I don’t have to tell you that there is a question we are all asking, one question: why? Why would a young lad commit such a horrible crime, a child of God no less—”

    Mr. Peterson reared up. “That boy was the Devil!”

    “He was screwy in the head!” Mabel Fricks hollered from the back of the church. “He should have been locked up.”

    And others chimed in.

    “Where does a boy that age get his hands on an assault rifle? Can you tell me that?”

    “It’s the government’s fault!”

    “It’s the NRA! They’re nothing but a bunch of bullies!”

    “Amen!” someone shouted from the choir.

    Father O’Hare came out from behind the pulpit and held up his hands until everyone had quieted down. He didn’t have a passage to point to, nothing in the Bible about twenty innocent children being gunned down in the middle of the day. All he knew is that the evil that overtook that boy’s soul was beckoning to others, a curl of smoke that made others follow blindly, luring the nation with its deceptive tune. He had to stop that evil energy from permeating his flock, from spreading further into the world. He had to tell them that the only way to defeat the dark was to turn toward the light and remember the good. To remind others. And to never forget, even after this day was long forgotten.

    “We’re trying to find something to blame,” he began, “instead of looking for something to cherish.” His eyes swept the angry faces and settled on Mr. Peterson’s. “Joe. Your beloved wife sits next to you, the mother of your children. When was the last time you held her hand? And Sam,” he turned to the choir director slumped in his chair, “this fine morning when you walked to church, did you give thanks for your sturdy legs?” Father O’Hare spread his arms to the congregation. “Did any of you notice the morning sky?  Did you marvel at the gold and the orange and the pink all swirled together, and let it settle in your soul?”

    Everyone was still.

    “Now then, here is the question we ought to be asking ourselves: Why do we let our anger blind us to what is good in the world? It’s not our job to find blame. It’s our job to find love. Take the hand of your grieving neighbor and lead them to the window and show them the sunrise, remind them of the good that survives.”

    Joe Peterson grunted, and folded his arms. His grandson was six. He would be hard pressed to find something good in the world if it had happened to little Joey.

    “Let us pray.”

    Joe refused to bow his head. When the choir rose he refused to stand, refused to pick up the hymnal again, refused to sing. But Joe’s wife did, her voice thin and trembling and off key. The skirt of her pale yellow dress brushed his knee as she swayed with each note, the lightest touch, a butterfly’s wing. Mr. Peterson closed his eyes and let the touch settle, let it take up residence in his aching heart.