Beacons of Hope

It’s a time of uncertainty, heightened emotion – especially emotions we prefer to minimize: fear, sadness, fatigue.

We struggle with our ability to feel a host of emotions at the same time: How do we hold fear and joy, sadness and pride, humility and anger? Instead of allowing ourselves to feel and respond, we may prefer to minimize emotions like fear and sadness, and we try to maximize joy and hope. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as we recognize that our ability to feel happiness, hope and joy can be enhanced by experiencing a full range of emotions.

When I am afraid that we don’t have enough, I despair. I can panic. And then, I look to our staff members, families, clients, donors and neighbors as beacons of hope. The reality of support, in whatever form it comes, brings joy and hope. The contributions we receive from all of these sources remind me: There is enough in the world. We’re not alone fighting the COVID monster.

This sense of relief, followed by hope and joy, comes when I face the challenges our clients and their families experience being marginalized by systems that refuse to acknowledge their humanity and their ability to contribute to the world. This constant work to find room at the table for people with disabilities heightens my awareness and gives me a sense of solidarity with people of color, people with mental health challenges and other marginalized groups as they fight to find their own room at the table. How do we make this a both/and conversation instead of an either/or?

We have to believe that there is enough in the world­ – that I don’t somehow lose out if I make space for someone else. As Paul Wellstone said, “We all do better when we all do better.” We need to keep repeating this, and discussing it, and finding the ways for us all to do better. We have to resist the urge to give in to the fears that make us want to hoard space at the table, power and resources. We have to resist the voices that tell us we should live in fear.

I was recently reminded of something we teach our staff members here at LBSA: Rights and responsibility go hand in hand. Why don’t small children have the right to do the things that adults do? Because they are in the process of learning that actions have consequences, and they are still learning that sometimes the consequences are much bigger and harder to handle than the desired activity or thing.

My individual rights come at a cost and must be balanced with the rights of my next-door neighbor, my aging parents, the people I work with. I don’t get to do whatever I want, whenever I want, without any attention to the cost – the responsibility – of those choices. I may not know the impact my choices have on others. The impact may be delayed by hours, days, months, even years. A refusal – or carelessness – in wearing a mask, may result in someone – a client, an employee – being exposed and getting sick from that exposure. Just because I can’t see the cost doesn’t mean there IS no cost.

Thank you to all of you who participate in solutions, understanding that we give and get in society. Thank you to all of you who find ways to bring joy, to celebrate and share with us what you have. You ARE our beacons of hope. You spark joy. You remind us that we all CAN do better, when we all do better. Thank you for sharing, for advocating and for showing the pathway from fear to joy.