Things Are Better. I Have Hope.

I’m a southerner, but not like a deep-South southerner. I am from a small city of 300,000- small by city standards. I don’t think you can be deep South without being from somewhere off the beaten path. We had a presidential debate one election year for goodness sake. If you are not from south of the Mason-Dixon line you might think that it’s all the same down here. It’s not. North Carolina and Tennessee might find itself with much in common but Mississippi and Louisiana really have their own South as well as their own state cultures. Florida and Texas are both unique personalities onto themselves and yet still southern.

Sometimes I forget all of this, the intricacies of my part of the world. Last night I happened to turn on NPR’s Marketplace and listened to a story on Philadelphia, Mississippi, a place I have never heard of even though it is where three civil rights workers were killed in 1964. The movie “Mississippi Burning” was inspired by the events there. The story discussed racism and economic disparities in the area. It shared viewpoints of residents both young and old. An eighteen-year old contemplated whether she’d come back home after college. A businesswoman discussed the responsibility that comes with freedom. The thing that stuck with me most was the mayor who said, “Things are better. I have hope.” One statement doesn’t go without the other. Things may have gotten better but it’s not enough so we must have hope. We’re not there yet. We must have hope.

It’s not easy to have hope in today’s fast-paced world. We don’t just hear about every tragedy, we hear about it seconds after it happens and we watch firsthand footage. Forget eyewitness accounts. Who needs those? We have cell phone cameras. Stories are received pieces at a time, but we have not learned patience nor forgiveness nor listening to others. Did we ever listen to others? Blogger friend Christine Hennessey recently wrote a post “Listening and Learning” which really resonated with me. She wrote about keeping quiet having spent her time trying-

… to understand the world we’re living in and how to make it better.
I don’t have any answers yet. I suspect it will be a while before any of us do, and that a lot more terrible things will happen before the good stuff makes a comeback. In the meantime, I will keep learning, keep listening, keep trying.
With each day’s news story, I have felt myself shut down a little. I want to retreat from the world. But I live here. I live on this street, in this town, in this state, in this country, in this world. This is as much my community as anyone else’s and I know it is also my responsibility to be an active, positive member. What right do I have to complain or retreat if I don’t also participate?
Each day is a new day and a new opportunity.
Things are better. I have hope.