Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., Dec. 31, Jan. 1 or 2
Early drafts of this annual note began as warnings against fear, doom and lunacy. After all, when a guy’s barber says he plans to mow his yard on Christmas and terrible storms sweep the South, it’s difficult to deny climate change. When armed conflicts with uniformed troops or ragtag insurgents invade, occupy or terrorize, it’s hard to see peace on Earth. When basic human needs like water or protection from diseases seem distant, it’s tough to be upbeat. And when politicians preach division, anger and hate, it’s almost impossible to see civility, much less decency and democracy.
Yet, maybe that’s when those virtues become vital.
Journalist, novelist and Christian apologist G.K. Chesterton said, “Faith means believing what is incredible, or it is no virtue at all. Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all. And charity means pardoning what is unpardonable, or it is no virtue at all.”
In the end, we need perspective. Humans can become wiser when we realize our species knows less than we think we do, and we accept that we share much: a planet, time, and hope for our communities, families and future.
There are reasons to reject fear, anger and hate – and the resulting despair. In 2015:
* nations reached an accord to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons,
* the Keystone pipeline was cancelled, so dirty oil won’t cross the midsection of the country to increase fossil fuel use through exports,
* the United States and Cuba normalized relations after more than 50 years of tension,
* individuals who love each other and want to be married can more easily do so, and
* a Congress that can’t seem to work for the benefit of the nation seems ready to end the ineffective and cruel policies of a “Drug War” and mass incarceration of nonviolent offenders.
Also, the world started to cope with climate change by reaching a deal to begin cooperating on pollution and energy. The landmark pact reached in Paris is a meaningful step to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and besides bringing together different governments, it signals a broader consensus.
“The recent Paris agreement is a bold step,” said Marshall Shepherd, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Georgia. “Key conservatives, major corporations, the military, and faith communities recognize the challenges and opportunities.”
Opportunity in unity occurred in the United States, where faith leaders in 15 cities last month marched for “unity over extremism.” In Washington, pastors walked from the Hebrew Congregation synagogue to the National Cathedral, and then the Islamic Center.
“Embedded in all three Abrahamic faiths is the understanding that we are all pilgrims,” said the Rev. Gina Gilland Campbell of the National Cathedral. “A pilgrimage is a spiritual activity, done in community.”
Likewise, religious leaders in a suburban Omaha community are building a 38-acre campus featuring a church, a mosque and a synagogue, and a similar effort is underway in Berlin, where one building will be home to Christian, Islamic and Jewish worshippers.
On a smaller scale, there was the CBS yarn about a guy your age – 28 – deciding to help a man who was shot and paralyzed. Eugene Yoon learned that mugging victim Arthur Renowitzky was determined to walk again, and – despite never having met Renowitzky – Yoon was touched. He learned that scientists were developing a exoskeleton apparatus that can help some people literally get on their feet. It costs about $80,000, though, so Yoon quit his job and walked from Mexico to Canada to raise money to get the device for this stranger in need. He did it, and Renowitzky has hope he may walk again.
And then there was the radio story about a Chicago commuter whose foot became caught between a parked train and a platform until a group of everyday people worked together to push the car enough to free the trapped person.
Human beings can cooperate, like basketball’s alley-oop or baseball’s double play, playing in a band or dancing in a group.
Yes, there is hope, faith and love. As journalist, poet and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “To love is not to look at one another but to look together in the same direction.”
Hang in there.
[PICTURED: Photo by Sharon Knight.]