It’s rare for me to feel a sense of hopelessness, which is probably why my experience of it recently was so uncomfortable. A number of things contributed to it: Dion’s ongoing health challenges; an accumulation of grief for the too many friends whose deaths have been untimely, sometimes violent, and often preventable; the lack of space I’ve had to properly mourn my mother; the increasing awareness of how many layers of marginalization people face; my dear friend’s angst that the poverty she lives with will be never-ending; hearing about the many forms of racism that continue to exist.
I was sitting in a chair at ReImagine, a conference in Hamilton that took place last week, when my chest got tight and I began to cry. The group assembled had just listened to a profound and heart wrenching rendition of Ben Harper’s Call it What it Is (“Government ain’t easy, policing ain’t easy, hard times ain’t easy, oppression ain’t easy, racism ain’t easy, fear ain’t easy, suffering ain’t easy. Call it what it is.”)
I felt this overwhelming sense of dread in my heart and weighing on my shoulders. All the things I mention above were in my mind. I contemplated my own mistakes. I wondered if there was any way forward. It was a dark moment. I also began to worry about my impending talk, the one I needed to give in the same room the next morning. Given that we had spent much of the day acknowledging the need for further decolonization and the dynamics of power and privilege, could I dare to talk about practicing presence in Parkdale? What if I stumbled with my words or caused harm rather than good?
As hard as it was, I think I needed to sit in all that discomfort. Too often we do not provide room to lament, both our own wrong actions and the brokenness of the world. Maybe it’s because we want to appear okay, or in order to cope we have to just keep going. All I know is that whenever I think I can put my grief in a box it finds a way out. And usually when it does I have less control of it than if I’d held it in my lap all along.
Each day at ReImagine we sang a beautiful original song of lament written by Chad Cecil, that included the lyrics: we’re not okay/love make a way. Those words have been running through my mind non-stop. Collectively acknowledging that we’re not okay felt important. As we did so, there was a palpable sense of hope that re-emerged for me. I believe that all things are going to one day be made right. In the meantime, we have the incredible opportunity to learn what it means to love one another, to fight injustice, to celebrate acts of neighbourliness, and to be transformed by our Creator.
I did share the story of The Dale. I also shed the shroud of hopelessness. God reminded me in those dark moments that His light is real. I closed my talk with the words of Oscar Romero which I will do here too: “So, it is for us, we may never see end results, and what we do may in the end be very incomplete. Still we minister; still we love, hoping for the kingdom which is beyond our vision. Still we plant and water the seeds which may not be our own, but in truth belong to future generations. Still we find meaning in our lives as incomplete as they may actually be, because we participate in something much larger than ourselves, and in this hope we prophesy of the kingdom of God, we prophesy of a future that is not our own.”
Love make a way.