Beyond Hope

“Hope is the thing with feathers”

-Emily Dickinson

Try courage instead

This Thanksgiving, I was keenly aware of my gratitude for an absent member of our family. Had he lived, our son would have been four years old. I am truly thankful for his brief presence in our lives, which activated my paternal instincts, and gave me a deeper respect for my own forefathers. The three days I spent with him in the hospital, and the subsequent years I have spent coming to terms with his short life, taught me something important about how to live my own life. My wife put it succinctly one morning: “You don’t need hope if you have courage.”

We admire saints and martyrs (including the secular ones) not because they hoped for success in their own lives, but because they faced the circumstances of their lives with a sense of higher purpose, and great courage. And while they often had visions of a better future, they were prepared to act courageously whether or not they would ever see these visions realized in their lifetime. Likewise, our American ancestors, whom we honor by feasting at Thanksgiving, may have hoped for a better future for their children. But it was their daily application of courage that I admire most.

I was talking with a friend recently about how perilous it may have been for our current president to have run his election campaign on a message of hope. Continue reading…