America is a great force for freedom and prosperity. Yet our greatness is not measured in power or luxuries, but by who we are and how we treat one another. So we strive to be a compassionate, decent, hopeful society. George W Bush, State of the Union address, 31/Jan/2006
We strive to be a hopeful society. This was one of the mantras that ran through President Bush's speech last night. I thought it was an interesting theme. It seemed to me the sort of phrase you might expect from a pastor, not a president. I could almost hear Dr. Martin Luther King delivering those lines, with choruses of amens shouted from the audience.
A hopeful society.
A hopeful society ... deliver[s] equal justice under law.
A hopeful society has institutions of science and medicine that ... recognize the matchless value of every life.
A hopeful society expects elected officials to uphold the public trust.
A hopeful society gives special attention to children who lack direction and love.
A hopeful society comes to the aid of fellow citizens in times of suffering...
A hopeful society acts boldly to fight diseases like HIV/AIDS...
In the President's view, hope thrives in a climate where justice is assured, where life is held sacred, where leaders act ethically, where children are esteemed, where the suffering find compassion and where we resist the power of death and disease with all of our skill.
It's not a complete list, but it's a good list.
The loss of hope kills the human spirit. America is a wealthy and privileged country, but life is brutal, and even in America it is easy to lose hope.
Women and children are especially vulnerable. A father dies or leaves his wife, and suddenly she is the sole support for her children. A teenage girl becomes pregnant and her boyfriend wants nothing to do with her. What do they do? The challenges of raising children in a single-parent home can be overwhelming.
All it takes is the loss of a job, a major illness, a fire, an accident, and the world spins out of control hope evaporates.
The Scriptures talk about a higher order hope, one that does not come from government safety nets, but from the God who loves us.
"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11, NLT
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you. Psalm 39:7, NLT
So I pray that God, who gives you hope, will keep you happy and full of peace as you believe in him. May you overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13, NLT
We overflow with hope through the power of God within us. But that isn't the whole story. We weren't intended to live solitary, independent lives; we were designed to live in community. And as we, the members of that community, act justly and morally, as we reach out to each other in compassion and love, as we encourage and help one another, we stimulate the growth of hope.
Hope is like the seed of the desert Mesquite tree. These small, brown seeds are sealed in a tough, waxy coating. Unless that coating is penetrated by abrasion or dissolved, the seed will not germinate. You have to scarify the seed, penetrating the hard exterior (sandpaper works well) before it will sprout.
Perhaps the key to building a hopeful society is in our own hands. Perhaps our daily acts of morality and compassion scarify the defensive shells of the hurting people we meet every day, allowing God's hope to sprout and take root in their lives.
Are we a hopeful society? Is the world a hopeful place?
Where does hope come from, and how do we encourage it to grow?
Photo credit: gardenguides.com