It is very easy to lose hope. The news seems filled with massacre after massacre in the United States, as we become numb. Even “prayers and thoughts” have disappeared from the public vocabulary. Part of my morning prayer rituals is the recitation of Psalm 121, which begins with: “I lift up my eyes to the heavens; from whence will my help come? My help comes from God, Maker of heaven and earth.” I daily ask God what I’m needed to do, and to give me the right words to say. But from whence comes my hope?
I was privileged, honored and humbled to be the recipient of an honorary Doctorate in Divinity from Washington & Jefferson College, a small school of 2,500 students approximately 45 minutes southwest of Pittsburgh, on Tuesday evening. While meeting people after my address, a young man approached me, a student in the school. He told me that in the aftermath of October 27, he and several other students struggled with what should be a proper response. They decided to form the “Interfaith Leadership Club”, to try to learn more about people of different faiths, to find ways to work together.
This has been a constant in my speeches over the many months. We live in silos, and do not know our neighbors. This lack of knowing leads to distrust, fear, and loathing, which leads to H, which eventually leads to violence. The young man I met took my message to heart, and I let him know how proud I was of the positive steps that he and his fellow students had taken, and encouraged him to continue in his efforts, for he had chosen the right path, the only path, towards a better world. He presented me with a group pin, with the words “founding member” emblazoned on the top, and asked if I would consent to being photographed with him.
I left Washington & Jefferson College that evening proudly carrying the doctoral hood and certificate, and even more proudly grasping the button that young man had presented me. For through him and his fellow students I saw another example of hope. There are many examples of hope all around us. When bad news follows bad news, it is easy to lose hope. This young man reassures all of us that hope springs eternal, and I will not allow the bad to tarnish the good.