Tag Archives: hope

The Resilience of Hope

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, I put a table with colored chalk and hand sanitizer near my front sidewalk with a sign reading, “Please draw a picture or message of hope. Please use sanitizer before and after. Stay safe. Stay well.”

Almost instantly, people began drawing and writing. When rain washed away the chalk, they drew new pictures. Week by week the pattern continues: hope drawn, hope gone, hope drawn. The resilience of hope visible on my sidewalk.

When I first set out the chalk, I had no idea what would happen. Would we become the crazy people with chalk in front of their house? Would anyone draw? Would it matter? Like priming the pump at a fundraiser, I drew a smiley face to get things started, then took my dogs for a walk.

By the time I returned, there were pictures on the sidewalk. Within days, there were rainbows, flowers, stars, a car and a unicorn. There have been trucks, cats, dogs, houses, families, and smiley faces–even one wearing a mask. Today there are fireworks, pets, mountains, and flowers on my sidewalk.

I was moved by what people drew that first week. I was awed. I still am.

Some people draw, others write messages: Believe hope will come. We will get through this. Love, Peace, Hope. Be Kind. Wash your hands. Thanks for letting us draw. Together.

My sidewalk makes people smile in an otherwise grim time.

People have been leaving messages and drawing pictures ever since. Some people pause to look at the drawings and smile as they continue walking. Parents have said my sidewalk is their child’s favorite part of their daily walk. Teens have shown me which pictures they drew and messages they wrote. Adults have thanked me for giving them a place to share. The sidewalk project has helped build a sense of community that counters our isolation. When I need a lift, I walk out to my sidewalk and feel hopeful that we will make it through.

As the weeks pass and the world around us changes, so, too, have the messages changed. They began with “Stay safe; Wash your hands; Love, Joy, Hope; Hope will come.” After the killing of George Floyd, they’ve included “Black Lives Matter,” and “This Sidewalk Is a Blessing.” June arrived and “Happy Pride Month” appeared. This weekend, someone wrote “Just Mask Up or Stay Home” in beautiful colors. Always, there are messages of “Be kind; It will be OK; We’ll get through this.”

Today the sidewalk art includes green mountains beneath a blue sky and yellow sun, “Black Lives Matter, Just Mask Up or Stay Home,” a house, fireworks, a dog saying “Woof,” and flowers. When my own green shoots of hope wilt in the face of the day’s news, I stand at my sidewalk and feel hopeful.

Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love,” says Mother Teresa. I can’t do great things to change the world, but I can do small things with love. One of those small things is to set out chalk and sanitizer and create a canvas for people to share dreams, resilience, and hope with others.

Even when it’s washed away, hope is resilient. Breathe it in: We will make it through.

Knitted shawl with cable and garter stitches

Knit. Rip. Walk. Ice. Repeat.

While I was laid-up last winter with a broken foot, I decided I’d learn to knit.  I streamed knitting classes online and practiced stitches for weeks.  When I got bored with knitting, I’d change to woodworking and sewing videos, then go back to knitting.  After more attempts than I can count, I finally made a hat good enough to wear in public—as long as no one looks too closely. 

Onward!  When I could drive again, I took a short class at a local yarn shop https://www.allwoundupyarnshop.com/ to make a shawl.  In this class, everyone makes the same shawl pattern with the instructor teaching the new stitches, helping us fix mistakes, and encouraging us when we want to give up.  It seemed a good way to take the next step. https://newwayopening.com/2017/11/08/whack-a-mole/

The shawl we were making has two sections. The first is cable stitches—a new skill–and the second is simple knitting.  Surely, I could do this.  People all over the world knit, so how hard can it be? 

That’s like saying people all over the world keep going in tough times.  Or, people all over the world have setbacks but keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Or, people all over the world fall but keep getting up and trying again.  How hard can it be if so many people do it?

Having tried both knitting, and getting up after setback in life, I can tell you:  both are harder than they look.  Really hard.  Frustrating.    The biggest difference between them is that one is a non-essential skill for most of us, and the other is life.

I’m still deciding if learning to knit as a way to push through a major setback was a good idea or not.  The shawl isn’t finished, nor is the comeback.  On each, I go backward so often that I wonder if it’s worth the effort.

Here’s what I mean: I began the shawl at home before the class, but I couldn’t get past the first few inches. I kept ripping it out and starting over.  Even with the instructor’s help, I must have started over at least 1400 times.  Just last night, I ripped out a dozen rows again.  Note to self:  Don’t try to knit in the dim light while watching a movie.

Likewise, the last few years have had what seems like at least 1400 life setbacks, as well. https://newwayopening.com/2018/03/05/my-heart-failure-returned/ I keep pushing through, putting one foot in front of the other, but it sure feels like my knitting experiment:  slow.  I started physical therapy for my foot and ankle and have made good progress. But if I stood too long or didn’t elevate my foot enough, or bent it too much or walked too far, I had to elevate and ice my foot and ankle again for hours. 

For months, I walked and iced, knitted and ripped, walked and iced.

My knitting teacher fixed my mistakes a few times and said, “You can do it.  It’s hard, but you’ll get it.” My doctor said my foot was healing well.  “Keep up the good work. You can do it.” 

Then, I took a class on how to fix mistakes without ripping out endless rows of knitting.  I felt so empowered and hopeful that I almost cried. I straightened my spine and kept knitting. 

On a warm March day, I raked winter debris off my flower gardens.  Granted, I had to elevate and ice my foot for an entire day afterward, but I’d worked in my garden without permanent damage.  Last week, I was finally able to walk around my block.  I’ve gone back to my fitness class.  Sweet.

My shawl is now two-thirds finished.  People who’ve seen it seem genuinely impressed, as I am.  Cool.  I’m almost daring to hope.

Last week, I hiked a short distance on a fire road in the mountains of Eastern Washington and walked on rocks beside a stream.  I couldn’t have done that a month ago. The smell of cedars in mountain air mingled with the sound of birds singing and our dogs splashing in the creek.  If there’s a heaven, I think I was there.  I’m almost daring to hope.

Knitting well isn’t easy, as people all over the world know.  Nor is it easy to keep getting up when life knocks us down.  Yesterday, I chose yarn for my next project and signed up to volunteer in a food bank. Knit and rip.  Walk and ice.  I dare to hope. 

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I Had Dared to Hope

I had dared to hope that I was finally healthy enough to bring energy and imagination to the world again.  But Whack-a-mole returned.  A few weeks after I wrote a New Year’s letter celebrating my improved health, I was diagnosed with heart failure almost as severe my original diagnosis 13 years ago. A specialized pacemaker, a new medication and medically supervised exercise hold out the hope of a stronger heart.  I need ways to hold onto this hope and persevere in “working the program.”

As the U.S. commemorates the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this week, words of King included in an article in the Washington Post inspire me to keep on keepin’ on.

In “King was unpopular and demoralized before he died. He pressed on anyway,” Stephen Kendrick and Paul Kendrick remind me of both a part of the Civil Rights struggle many of us forget and the perseverance of hope:

The shot that echoed in the Memphis dusk 50 years ago still reverberates through our national life, yet there is so much about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. we find hard to absorb.

In our long effort to moderate King, to make him safe, we have forgotten how unpopular he had become by 1968. In his last years, King was harassed, dismissed and often saddened. These years after Selma are often dealt with in a narrative rush toward martyrdom, highlighting his weariness. But what is missed is his resilience under despair. It was when his plans faltered under duress that something essential emerged. The final period of King’s life may be exactly what we need to recall, bringing lessons from that time of turmoil to our time of disillusion.

Celebrating the march out of Selma, Ala., and his early prophetic optimism made sense in the heady Obama years.  Now, we need King’s determined faithfulness.

Once refusing to get on a flight in 1967, King called his wife, Coretta, from the airport saying, “I get tired of going and not having any answers.” His opposition to the Vietnam War cost him support. At a time of emerging Black Power, King’s dream of integration and nonviolence seemed to many insufficient, almost passé. Yet he died still trying to confront “the evil triplets,” how “racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together.”

An unguarded King who still speaks to us can be found in transcripts of Southern Christian Leadership Conference retreats. [At the Penn Center on St. Helena Island, S.C.,] he told his staff in 1966, “I am still searching myself. I don’t have all the answers.” He challenged them — and us — “I’m not talking about some kind of superficial optimism which is little more than magic. I’m talking about that kind of hope that has an ‘in spite of’ quality.” 

[Just four months before his assassination, he told a similar gathering,] “Hope is the final refusal to give up.” King did not just assert this but also lived the belief, by continuing to put his body into his nation’s gun sights. His lack of answers did not keep him from his destiny — which was not fate so much as the result of his choice to show up, to keep on.

Every era finds the King it needs. The version we need now is a King who pressed on through doubt to see a radical vision, as we must [with] the challenges we face. King ran out of certainty but never faith.
(Emphasis mine)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/king-was-unpopular-and-demoralized-before-he-died-he-pressed-on-anyway/2018/04/03/06f9f1d0-345b-11e8-8bdd-cdb33a5eef83_story.html