In a dark moment, looking for reasons to hope


There is a heaviness in the air. At least that’s how I feel these days after Uvalde. Maybe that’s the case for you too.

Part of the feeling, of course, is the dismay and despair that accompanies seeing innocent Americans, mere children, slaughtered again. Another part is disgust at our country’s overwhelming inability to prevent these things from happening so frequently. Are we slipping into numb indifference?

Then there is the shock of learning how this particular massacre unfolded, including the distressing discovery that the police at the scene did far less than the parents outside the school were in right to expect.

Finally, there is only grief, pure and simple, at the loss of 19 children.

It would be easy to let despair or, worse, apathy prevail at a time like this. And that makes it more important than ever to remember, if we can, that all is not lost, that there is still so much good and beauty out there.

Here are some places where I’ve found both – and hope – in recent days.

little league

A friend sent me this message a few weeks ago, after opening day in Albany: “If you want to start looking for evidence that society isn’t totally (angry), Little League grounds are not a bad place to start.”

He couldn’t have been more right, I thought one recent night as I sat in the stands and watched second- and third-year students try to punch and catch with little success.

The kids in their uniforms jibber and chatter from the canoe. Flyers picking dandelions. The coaches encourage, teach and, above all, are caring.

Teenage referees. Volunteers grill burgers. Parents watch, worry and cheer from lawn chairs. The enthusiastic joy that erupts when, improbably, a ball manages to sink into a child’s glove. Oh my God, she caught it!

Watching Little League baseball is restorative. I can’t recommend it enough.

Animals

We have baby ducks in our garage. (That’s a long story that I’ll save for another day.) And while there may come a time when I really regret owning poultry, this week I found ducklings to be a wonderful balm. .

I mean, yeah, they’re cute. Quack quack. But it’s more than that.

It is, as poet Wendell Berry said, what “the peace of wild things” can mean when we despair for the world and what life can be like for children. Our ducklings happily continue their routine – dipping their heads in the water, munching on dandelions, huddled peacefully under a heat lamp – ignoring the nasty, chaotic world beyond their brooder.

And while I’m sitting watching them, so am I.

Flags

I visited Saratoga National Cemetery on Friday, where volunteers had decorated many veterans’ graves with small American flags.

No surprise there. This Memorial Day weekend, when we are asked to remember those who have lost the war, flags will be everywhere.

But at a time like this, after Uvalde and Buffalo, it’s not easy for many of us to feel patriotic. There seems to be something rotten in the soil of the nation, in its air, as the massacres we constantly witness describe and dishonor us. It is as if the Americans had forgotten something important. It’s as if we were divided to the point of divorce.

Even in the face of indescribable tragedy, we retreat to our corners and turn against each other. It’s on you, we say with pointing fingers. Hate followed by violence followed by hate followed by violence, nausea.

America, 2022. We are proud of it?

And yet, the flags. Flags everywhere, flown so as not to suggest that we live on perfect ground, fly as a symbol of ideals we have yet to fully achieve. They are flags of hope, in other words.

Faith

Few things are as moving as the displays of religious faith by people who have every reason not to feel faithful.

One example is the Christian grace and charity expressed by members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, who in 2015 publicly forgave the white supremacist who killed nine of their congregants. This kind of strength is religion’s best advertisement.

And from Uvalde this week we see again and again pictures of grieving relatives and community members standing together in prayer, just when many of us would be most tempted to doubt the existence or the grace of God.

I wish I had that kind of faith, and maybe someday I will. But in the meantime, I can still find hope and comfort in the hope and comfort of others, in their trust that we are loved and part of something bigger and better than this old world. trouble.

[email protected] ■ 518-454-5442 ■ @chris_churchill

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