on Hope

Hope is powerful. Like gravity, or magnetic fields, or water – it keeps our inner world centered, pulls us in new directions, seeps to the dark and crowded corners of our minds washing away the mess of lies and doubts that we accumulate. Hope is silent too, like the first blooms of spring – you wake up and wonder “where did that come from, and how did it break through the icy earth?”

For three weeks I have been telling my 5th grade students that I would burn their music compositions to CDs. For three weeks I have been stopped in the playground and stalked after school. “Ms. Lillis, are the CDs done? When are we getting our songs? Will we get to hear everyone else’s songs?” My answers are always “Soon, soon, and probably.” But what does that mean – “soon?”
“Can I come at lunch and get the CD?”
“Oh, okay. After school?”
“Mmmm, no they won’t be ready after school.”
“When will the be ready?”
“I don’t know, but when they are ready I will definitely give you yours.”
*heavy sigh* “Okay.”
A variation of the same conversation happens almost every day. One might think that this would spur me on to finish the project more quickly. Yes … but technology almost never, on the first try, does what you want it to do. Ah well – as I continue to work out the technological issues, my students continue to experience the power of hope: each day thinking, “Maybe today will be the day I get my CD.”

A few years ago, I went on a rainy-day hike through Tom Brown park in Tall’ee. I love when you can still hear the rain in the trees even when it has stopped falling from the clouds. The trail was wet but not a swamp. Well … almost a swamp … but a very pleasant one. No one around but me and the turtles, frogs, cicada, and banana spiders. I didn’t know the trail, nor did I have a map. I had no idea if it was a circular trail or a point-A-to-point-B trail, nor how many miles long it ran. I just started walking in hopes of finding a picnic table and a scenic vista, thinking that would stop and spend some time journaling when I did. After I had been walking a decent while without seeing either vista or picnic table, I started wondering when/if to turn around. Every time I considered turning, I would see something through the trees that caught my attention and kept me moving forward. Often I thought I saw a clearing only to have the path veer in a different direction. My mind kept saying “turn around,” but my curious, hopeful heart kept pushing my feet forward. I also understand why “a hope deferred makes the heart sick.” It’s wearisome to keep walking and not know how much longer you have to walk. Should you sit down and take a break? Or is “home” just a few steps ahead? I never did find a table to sit at nor a vista to enjoy that day. My lessons for the day lay instead amongst the turtle and the spiders, the moss and the lichens, and the twisty path I walked.

Some lessons take a while to sink in.

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