Hope and Health
“To choose hope is to step firmly forward into the howling wind, baring one’s chest to the elements, knowing that, in time, the storm will pass.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The Book of Joy
I think in some ways life is an act of hope. Each day presents a new opportunity to face whatever the day brings. Most of the time for most of us, that means going about eating, drinking, working, playing and loving our friends and families. That may not seem like an act of faith, or hope, but the minute that routine of living gets interrupted, it becomes clear that indeed, it is an act of hope: Hope that our health will hold up, hope that tomorrow the sun will rise and there will be food and work and a home.
I am on my way home from my grandfather’s memorial service, which was truly a celebration of 94 years of a life well lived. Because of distance, age and other things, I didn’t have an intimate relationship with my grandfather, but he has always been surrounded by friends and appreciative parishioners. He was a minister for some 65 years. I think he retired at least 6 times, preaching his final sermon only a few years before he died. Having somehow survived 3 different kinds of cancer, he died of complications related to pneumonia. He made the decision to withdraw medical care and to let this thing be the thing that killed him. This too, is an act of hope.
We don’t always get to choose how and when we will encounter challenges. We do not always get to choose how we will die. Each day we get to decide how we will live. These small choices strung together create a life and author the story that will be told at our memorial service or funeral. They also craft the story that is told about us when we are out of the room. These stories together write the narrative of a community and a nation. By living our hope, by being our best selves, we participate in the hopeful act of “being the change we wish to see in the world.” On a personal level, our attitude creates our reality. By choosing hope, by choosing to see the positive opportunities hidden in life’s difficult moments, we actually do impact our physical health. Positive people have stronger immune systems, are more successful and more likely to say they are lucky. If you ask me, that pretty hopeful.