“For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.”
– From Psalms 122:8-9, NRSV
“There is always hope!”
– Aragorn, from “The Lord of the Rings” (Movie Version)
I decided a few weeks ago that I wanted to do an Advent series as a way to really start my mixed theology/praxis/ritual in ernest. I wasn’t sure if was going to do a podcast or just a series of blog posts. While I may do a podcast at some point, I decided to go with the blog posts instead because, well, it is the end of the term and editing a podcast seems way too big a job right now. So, for the four Sundays of Advent, I’ll be posting a reflection for each day. I suppose you could also call them sermons, but I think I’m a better writer than I am a preacher. (Although, some might argue that…*shrug*)
The first Sunday of Advent is about Hope.
Hope is a tricky thing. The dictionary definition is not really useful, because Hope, like Love, is one of those words that has more to it than what we define it as. Sometimes Hope looks like a thing that is far, far away. Sometimes, so much so, you think that you’ve lost it. Sometimes we lose Hope in humanity when we watch the news or read the internet. Then there are the times we think that we’re fighting a hopeless battle against all sorts of things: injustice, greed, disasters, poverty…
I remember when HIV first started appearing in the United States. Granted I was pretty young when it was first made public in the early 80s, but I was pretty precocious since I wanted to be a doctor at the time, so I obsessed over the news about HIV. I read as much as I could understand, and tried to figure out what I didn’t. I think there was a part of me that had Hope and faith in the world of science. Surely they would come up with something to stop the disease quickly and make everyone better again?
But it was the first time in my young life, I think, where I realized that science couldn’t do everything and that humans could deliberately fail their own species. I read the stories of how queer people were treated in hospitals, left to die all alone because people were afraid of the virus. A virus that we didn’t know how it spread, or what it did, or how to stop it. A virus that initially spread in populations that a lot of other people just wanted to forget about. A virus that meant a death sentence if you found out you had it.
Even as an elementary school kid, I wondered: “Why are they dying alone? They’re human beings, too!” I’d cry at night sometimes in frustration because I was a kid and there wasn’t much I could do. But there was always a little spark of Hope inside that said that one day, I would be able to do something, even a little something.
And I did. I did fundraisers in high school. I learned all I could about HIV and AIDS so I could really educate the people I knew about the virus and teach them how to prevent themselves from getting it. I volunteered at an AIDS crisis hotline in Rhode Island. I wrote about it on blogs.
It didn’t seem like much, still doesn’t, but I did do something.
Today, there’s a little more Hope, and I have more Hope in the good that people are doing. There’s still a lot of work to be done. A lot of injustice to fight, particularly around access to medication and prevention education. There is still a lot of stigma around HIV that needs to be rewritten.
I try not to lose Hope. I try and see the good being done and support that good when I can. Even if it’s just writing something. I have Hope that maybe my words will inspire someone with different gifts and opportunities than mine to use them to help fight this disease. Some already do. There are biochemists who have more genetic knowledge than I do who are trying to create a vaccine. There are priests who run clinics all over the world to help people survive with HIV. There are people who lobby richer governments to help poorer governments get access to the medications.
None of this is easy work. It’s hard to maintain Hope sometimes. But that little spark of Hope tells me not to give up. It will happen.