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.

This I Believe

Last year I created a reading list at work, where I had everyone submit book recommendations. I compiled them all together to make a fantastic list of reads. I may have been the only one who got really excited about this list but lists and books represent two of my favorite things! (Dork alert.) I’ve made it my mission to read as many books on the list as possible (except the ones that I’m just really not interested in- can’t be too extreme). There’s probably 80 or so books on there.

too-many-books2

So far I’ve read:

  • Beach Music by Pat Conroy- Very interesting read but most certainly written for a different generation. I felt I would have gotten a lot more about of it if I was my parents’ age.
  • I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb- Absolutely loved it… until the ending which was delivered all neatly wrapped in a big ol’ bow. Little disappointed there.
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed- Loved every minute of this book. Have not seen the movie yet but I’m hoping to this week.

For Christmas this year I asked for a couple books off the list including This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women. It’s based on the NPR series that existed both in the 1950s and in the 2000s. It’s been a really incredible read. I want to share with you a couple of lines that I thought have been pretty poignant.

isabel

“Give, give, give–what is the point of having experiences, knowledge, or talent if I don’t give it away? Of having stories if I don’t tell them to others? Of having wealth if I don’t share it? I don’t intend to be cremated with any of it. It is in giving that I connect with others, with the world, and with the divine.” -Isabel Allende

albert

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious–the knowledge of the existence of something unfathomable to us, the manifestation of the most profound reason coupled with the most brilliant beauty.” – Albert Einstein

eve

“I believe in the power and mystery of naming things. Language has the capacity to transform our cells, rearrange our learned patterns of behavior and redirect our thinking. I believe in naming what’s right in front of us because that is often what is most invisible.” -Eve Ensler

oscar

“It would be folly for an individual to seek to do better- to do better than to go on in his own imperfect way, making his mistakes, riding out the rough and bewildering, exciting and beautiful storm of life until the day he dies.” – Oscar Hammerstein II

alan

“I believe in the creative powers of the unknown. I believe in the exhilaration of standing at the boundary between the known and the unknown. I believe in the unanswered questions of children.”   -Alan Lightman

Highly recommend it y’all.