“A sun grows our bodies. But only we can make each other better.”
Back in April, I asked Inprint poetry buskers (super talented people who literally write a poem in minutes based on whatever topic you throw at them) to pen a poem for me on faith, hope and healing. You know, super easy and light topics. The line I quoted above is from the last line of the poem. A zinger, that still shoots straight to my heart.
Hope, one of the words I asked the poet to write about, is one I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. If you look around, there’s a lot of doom and gloom in the world---feels like more so than normal. I mean, how can it not feel that way? Last month, we had a shooter target African-Americans at a grocery story on a Saturday in Buffalo. Then, just a couple weeks later—19 children and two teachers---gone, just like that, right before the end of the school year. It’s like the trauma since 2020 keeps building, not letting up. The day after the shooting at Robb Elementary I realized somewhere midway through the day, was also the same day as the anniversary of George Floyd’s death. Grief upon grief.
And besides the world events, we all have stuff that we’re going through. We have our own trials and tribulations and our personal grief that we’re holding onto in our hearts. When I asked for the poem about hope, this was before all those world events unfolded, because I think hope is always something I’m striving for, something I’m trying to cling onto.
If you look at me from the outside at first glance, I’m a pretty positive person. It most likely comes from my parents who are some of the most positive people I know. It’s not a fake, kind of a sugary sweet positive either. It’s rooted in the reality that, yeah, bad stuff happens, but they’re the kind of people who always press on and keep putting one foot in front of the other. I know part of the positivity comes from their faith, being deeply rooted in something bigger than themselves. And it also comes from their love for each other, how they were raised by loving families and the hope they find in threaded in their everyday. But even in all my positivity, there are days that I still struggle for hope.
Which brings me back to my poem and this line: “You look up and see clouds crashing into each other, thunder and lightning flashing, like hope, like faith, like healing.”
I wonder why the poet decided to use thunder and lightning as a simile for hope. Was the poet asking us to see hope in the thunder and the lightning? That seems like a ridiculous question, right?
But, that made me start to think back to Hurricane Harvey. The endless days of rain. The people who lost their homes, who lost loved ones. No hope in sight. I remember finding out one of the men I had reported on for months for the Houston Chronicle inside Harris County Jail, had drowned on his way to work. Joseph Dowell, who was affectionately called Unc, had just been released from jail the year before. His whole life was starting over again.
And now, it was snuffed out.
Where was the hope?
Back in summer 2016 before his death, Unc had been inside Harris County Jail, unsure of whether he would ever get out. But inside the jail, there was hope brewing. He became a part of re-entry program for those who had substance abuse problems. He healed himself with the help of others and grew stronger. He was able to take steps forward.
At this funeral, his steps forward were recognized by elected officials that he probably never dreamed would ever be there. Mayor Turner named a day after him. A flag at the U.S. Capitol had been raised in his honor.
Sure, as I wrote the story, my heart ached that this man---with so much still ahead of him---had to die. But, I saw the tiny shreds of hope that had been weaved for Dowell, starting in a jail cell, and now at his funeral, in the midst of all that thunder and lightning.
I think it’s easy to not to find the hope. To cascade into a sea of despair. To just let life and the days pass you by because well, the world kind of sucks right? But, I think it’s wiser to look for the hope, especially on the thunder and lightning days. Because it’s always there, tucked into those moments that you may miss, if you don’t look close enough. I know for me, I also have my faith that feeds me the hope when I can’t seem to find it. I look up and around me at what God created, and it reminds me that there’s light.
The line in my poem said it best: “If there is proof of a higher power its that flowers light up our days and fill our noses with the memories of everyday that came before.”
I say all of that not to downplay the grief and the sadness that so many are in because of the darkness happening in the world. It truly, sucks. And when you think about it in that way, hope seems a bit silly.
But this brings me back to that ending line of the poem: Only we can make each other better.
I know without the support of those inside the jail, Dowell would’ve never been able to get out. And I know without the support of one another, we’re not going be able to find the hope on the days that we can’t seem to reach it. We can look up at the sun God created all we want, but the poet is right: only we can make each other better. Only we can take steps to leave this world better than we found it.
I’ve realized that we magnify hope for others. The light in us, that comes from the One bigger than ourselves, is what’s going to move us forward, and it’s what’s going to make us better.
And, I’ll leave you with this from Unc, something he said earlier in the summer before he died.
"When you got hope, you can achieve; you can excel. When you lose hope, you lose reality of what's important to you."