By Shawn McAndrew
At the Hoffman Institute, our focus is on change. But to get to that change, we need a good dose of having hope.
Lately I’ve been thinking about hope in the face of all the change that is taking place – personally, locally, nationally, and internationally. Some days I despair of what is happening in our world; it is changing so rapidly, though much of it is for the good. What was reality four months ago is not reality today. In my optimistic moments I look for the silver linings in these changes.
When I am not feeling optimistic, I turn to spirit, to my truth, and find hope and resilience to keep going. In some of the Hoffman course materials we talk about compassion – both for others and our self. We discuss suffering and make pleas to ourselves and others that our suffering come to an end. We make these statements because we have hope that things will change for the better.
Lately, I’ve spent my Saturday mornings participating in a Torah Study through a local synagogue, followed by Hoffman’s teacher-led Connecting Cafe. Both these offerings have been an opportunity to stay connected to my spiritual self as well as spiritual communities.
The Flame of Hope
During a recent Torah Study, the underlying theme was hope. Rabbi Hugo Gryn’s story of Chanukah in 1944 was shared:
“It was the cold winter of 1944, and although we had nothing like calendars, my father, who was my fellow prisoner there, took me and some of our friends to a corner in our barrack. He announced that it was the eve of Chanukah, produced a curious-shaped clay bowl, and began to light a wick immersed in his precious, but now melted, margarine ration. Before he could recite the first blessing, I protested at the waste of food. He looked at me – then at the lamp – and finally said: ‘You and I have seen that it is possible to live up to three weeks without food. We once lived almost three days without water; but you cannot live properly for three minutes without hope.’”
A State of Mind
We can sacrifice many things to survive our plight, but hope must not be one of them. As Vaclav Havel points out in “The Politics of Hope” from Disturbing the Peace, “[H]ope … above all is a state of mind, not a state of the world… It is an orientation of the Spirit, an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons…”
We must find hope amongst the darkness, the pain, the anxiety, the despair, the change. Even if we have to use our small ration of “margarine” to create light, we must sacrifice the moment for the bigger picture, the future. Without that hope, that light, we cannot see what is ahead of us and participate.