Choosing Hope

There are lots of things in the air right now.

Wildfire smoke from the Pacific Northwest circles the globe. Tropical storms line up in the Gulf of Mexico. Coronavirus continues flying through airborne particles, with a death toll in the US still hovering around 1,000 a day.

But there is something else in the atmosphere.


Like many others, I have struggled to feel hopeful since that night in November of 2016 when I realized that Trump was going to win the election. Hope has been even more elusive since March when the pandemic took over our lives. My optimism seems to wax and wane with every Covid case update. Every political poll or presidential tweet pierces like a “corkscrew to my heart” in Dylan’s memorable phrase.

But there is something else in the atmosphere.

Yet in the past few weeks my optimism has grown with hope for some very specific things: Hope for a vaccine that can put our lives back to normal sometime next year. Hope for a lopsided Biden victory in November that can quell doubts of legitimacy. Hope that this moment can be a surge forward in the movement for racial justice, as Adam Serwer writes in the Atlantic.

At the same time, I am afraid.  I try on these hopes gingerly, not daring to put my full weight on them. I fear the crush of being let down.

But what is the alternative? Is hope—like love—intrinsically good, even when it seems particularly perilous? I think it is. I believe that hope is a choice that carries a moral and spiritual imperative to embrace. I have decided to say “yes” to hope.

I will declare along with Anne Sexton in her poem “Milk”:

There is hope.
There is hope everywhere.
I bite it.
Someone once said:
Don’t bite till you know
if it’s bread or stone.
What I bite is all bread,
rising, yeasty as a cloud.

There is hope.
There is hope everywhere.
Today God gives milk
and I have the pail.