As I drove slowly up the road devastation surrounded me on all sides. The landscape in every direction was blackened and the air was filled with the pungent smell of smoke. The quite familiar real estate now looked nothing like it had just 24 hours before. It was eerily quiet with no sign of life. That is until I rounded the last corner to my destination. Standing in front of the fire-ravaged ruins of his much beloved home was a long time friend. Hearing my approaching car, he turned around, and when our eyes met, I was completely shocked. His faced was filled with that familiar characteristic big toothy smile. He walked right up to my car and as I opened the door to step out he said, “Great news! I found my grandfather’s watch!” I am astounded by the capacity of those who are experiencing life altering trauma to find space for gratitude and hope.
Recently I was able to spend time at AwakeningSoul with colleague The Rev. Jen Bailey, executive Director of Faith of Matters and co-founder of People’s Supper. Sitting at her grandmother’s kitchen table sharing her story of trauma living in the south during Jim Crow, Jen was shaped with a life perspective of “deep grief and deep hope”. For me there is significant integrity and honesty in honoring both the impact of the grief in our lives, and at the same time, embracing a posture of hopefulness. It is absolutely critical we lean into the grief we are experiencing. And, it is as critical to create space for hopefulness. There is a sweet spot of healthiness that resides in the place that holds both deep grief and deep hope.
Soon Thanksgiving will be upon us. Most will experience this holiday like no other. In the significant challenges that are impacting us both individually and corporately, how might we create space for both deep grief and deep hope? What can we learn for our own experiences and those of others around trauma? Amidst times of great loss and sadness were we able to find a treasure of new life and hope? And who might we walk with that is deep in the time of trauma and could really use a companion on the journey to discovering also a place of hope? As for me, I am eternally grateful for those who were willing to sit with me rather than try to fix me in the midst of traumatic times in my life. Reflecting back on those times, their willingness to do so gave me the strength to find hope in those moments.
Renowned preacher William Sloan Coffin once shared during a time of significant trauma in his life, “My own broken heart is mending, and largely thanks to so many of you, my dear parishioners; for if in the last week I have relearned one lesson, it is that love not only begets love, it transmits strength.”
I am giving thanks this Thanksgiving during these challenging times to be able to embrace “deep grief and deep hope” because of the love from companions on the journey.