The “Work” of Hope

Like so many individuals across the world I was stunned by
the election results of Tuesday night. 
It is probably true that regardless of which side of this campaign you
might have been on, the results of the 2016 Presidential election are stunning
and historic.  For some, their candidate
surprisingly won the electoral vote and is somewhat unexpectedly heading to the
White House in January.  For others, the
“shock and awe” of the results, to the absolute consternation and disbelief of
pundits, pollsters, editors and a broad swath of journalists, seems impossible
to fathom or accept.  I find myself in
that second group personally.
As I woke early Wednesday morning, after grabbing a few
hours of sleep, to confirm my worst fears of an electoral college swinging the
“wrong way,” I struggled to make sense of the implications of the results.  How could this individual have been elected,
after THE video, the tirades, the hate language, etc., etc., etc.?  Equally how did “we” all get it so
wrong?  How were “we” so out of touch
with this clear, angry, mostly rural, mostly white voice rising across the
electoral map?  How did this happen, and
how can this possibly be part of “our” future??

Trying to stay off of social medial and away from CNN and
other news outlets, instead focusing on a work project at hand, I found myself
going through (and am still going through) the “five stages of grief,   “Denial=> Anger=> Bargaining=>
Depression=> Acceptance.”  While I
think that I may be stuck for a while in the 
“Anger=>Denial” loop, I have come to realize that simple “acceptance”
will not be the last stage of my process, nor will I let our president-elect
drive me into a mindset and personal orientation of anger/depression/pessimism
and cynicism!

It’s in this context that I found myself making a pilgrimage
this morning to a sight I keep returning to as a touchstone for inspiration and
hope; the sight of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Nobel Peace Prize in Concourse E at
the Atlanta airport.  Pictured above,
this specific sight, the display case with the Peace Prize medal in a busy
airport walkway means a lot to me and has for years.   Additionally his acceptance speech, which I
have quoted often across the essays on this blog, is a document that I revere
and constantly return to in moments of challenge and trial.  Specifically, I find myself turning again to
a specific paragraph that is once again timely and poignant.
“I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an
audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the
final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that
the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of
reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him. I
refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of
life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to
accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of
racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never
become a reality.”
  
On this Thursday morning after the election I realize that I
need to “work for hope” in this historic moment.  I am working hard to have “an abiding faith
in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind.”  I am working hard not to “accept the idea
that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of
reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him.”  Finally I am working hard NOT to believe that
“the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.”  In this moment consumed in the
“Denial=>Anger” loop, I need to work hard to hold on to hope and these words
from over fifty years ago which ring deeply true again today.

I am certain that there will be difficult times ahead as our
very divided country attempts to move forward after this divisive
election.  I am certain that we will
struggle as the new administration takes office and a new day with new
policies, priorities and agendas emerges early next year.  This is going to be hard!  Equally I am certain that the
president-elect, this one individual, with all of the hate, racism, bigotry and
misogyny that was seen on the campaign trail WILL NOT divert me from the ideals
of Dr. King.  I WILL NOT give him that
much power!  Focusing on the “work of
hope” will be my center, staying aligned to Dr. King’s ideals and optimism will
be my guardrails.  This indeed is going to
be hard, but on to the work at hand, ‘the work of hope!”