Faith, Love and, Most Importantly, Hope

It’s another rainy day in St. John’s; something we are used to here in the rainiest and snowiest major city in Canada (but, yes, Bergen does get almost 20-25% more rain than we do so, yes, Mjölnir, you get to keep bragging rights on that one). It’s quiet here in the living room. The only sounds are the ticking of the clock in the kitchen and the gentle whir of the fan in the laptop. No wind, not yet at least. But we did have wind, a gale, and rain, lots of it. For now we get a reprieve; time to mend what needs mending in preparation for what is ahead.

Fall here is mostly beautiful. How could it be otherwise in this largely unspoiled interface between land and sea?

Fall brings hope. Yes, plants and animals are shutting down, preparing to get through the winter as best they can, but the place comes to life in so many ways as those preparations are made, the fall fishery commences, as harvests are reaped.

OH got up early this morning and went out to join a large group of friends from work. Today, is the day of the “Run for the Cure,” an event designed to raise both research funds and awareness of breast cancer. It got me thinking of my blogger friend Tracy and her recent battle with it—it’s a hydra: chop off one head and another appears.

But she’s okay, in as much as one can be that way, after multiple rounds of FEC Chemo, Taxotere, Herceptin, Steroids and, of course, surgery. She beat the beast.

Right now she may be physically weakened but hope is strong within her.

Hope: the thing that sustains us when life throws its worst at us.

Just this past Friday I got to share lunch with my friend Val. She was already at the café when I arrived and greeted me, as always, with that radiant smile. We talked. Each time we talk I come away reaffirmed of what’s good in this world. It’s her gift.  We spoke a bit about work—we’re both retired from the same job—but mostly about the other things in our lives that matter.

We had both seen the iconic image of Chief Simeon  Tshakapesh, sitting in peaceful protest on the floor of Confederation Building, demanding a meeting with our province’s premier. His community, Natuashish, has been plagued by social issues since its inception.  With reports of widespread gas sniffing among children as young as seven the situation has become critical. The community lacks the resources to cope with this ever growing problem and, so, the chief has come here with a final desperate plea for help.

Simeon Tshakapesh sits in the lobby of the Confederation Building Wednesday morning in hopes of meeting with Premier Kathy Dunderdale about ongoing gas sniffing problems in Natuashish. — Photo and caption by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

The Mushuau Innu who live there are no strangers to social issues related to the externally (Government) imposed relocation to a single community. Traditionally the people were of the land, living nomadically as hunter-gatherers. It was thought—not by them—that settling in a single community would lessen their burdens and give them better lives. That has proven to be profoundly not the case. The original settlement at Davis Inlet attracted worldwide attention in the latter part of the twentieth century as reports of rampant alcoholism among adults and gas sniffing among youth made international headlines. The response to this was Government-Funded relocation, around 2002, to a planned community around 15 km away. The result, however, is not much better, if at all.

Fall, a time of harvest.

Just that morning two people on a local radio station were discussing this. Fred Hutton and Brian O’Connel talked about the history and of the current status. Many, many events led to the current situation and both were careful not to play the blame game. They did wonder, though, if this were some sort of dark harvest.

Indeed. Now the question is what do we do? Look to the events that led to this and, what… assign blame? Ignore it? Fix it?

It always seems to come down to a couple of points of view. There are some who insist that the whole situation is all of the Mushuau Innus’ own doing. After all, they point out, they got themselves in a big mess in the first place over at Davis Inlet and ‘we’ helped them out with a $200+ million relocation to the much better Natuashish. And now, look at what they have done with all ‘we’ have done for them—put themselves right back in the same situation again. This time, they assert, “we” should just leave “them” to their own devices.

I have no idea what proportion of the population feels that way. I do know, though, that most people I interact with do not share that opinion. Most do not comprehend the situation at all. All feel regret that it has come to this but mainly feel extreme discomfort. This is not the sort of situation that has clear causes and answers. After all, “They” are “Us”, just in a different place and with different histories than those of the so-called majority. Many would like to “fix” the situation, to make it such that this would all go away…

But it does not work like that. The Mushuau Innu are people, they are us; Intelligent, Resourceful and Complex. There can, therefore, be no simple fixes. This cannot be made to go away.

But what, then?

Time plays tricks with memory. Over time, especially if we embellish our stories in the re-telling, our version of events can depart significantly from the one supported by the facts. The best we can do, if truth matters, is to try and recount stories as accurately as possible. But it isn’t always possible, is it? Emotions, values, pressures and interactions with others—all help to change the story. Here, nonetheless, is one as I recall it.

It was grade two, in religion class. I can see it all—at least I think I can. I was seated on the right side of the class facing the front, about halfway down the row. There would have been close to thirty people in my class. Miss Lake (now Ms. Watts, and she’s retired) wrote, neatly, three items on the board. Three prayers: the Act of Faith, the Act of Hope and the Act of Love, in that order. Neither was very long; just a few lines each. The act of hope was maybe one line longer than the rest. As was my fashion I memorized all three.

In those days my sister and I had a morning ritual. Just after we woke up we would go to Mom and Dad’s room and kneel by the bed to say morning prayers. We had learned them off by heart and, I suppose, often recited them on full auto, not always thinking of the meaning behind the words.

After I had learned the three Acts I had told Dad and he had insisted that we incorporate them into the morning prayers. Of course my 7-year-old heart had fallen. I’d just lengthened this externally-imposed ritual by just a little more. Because, though, the words came from me, they were always recited mindfully. I thought about each word.

When you are a child prayer is something you only do, in the absence of external influence, if there is something you want. You pray for things: a pass on a test, a win in a game, an item you want to possess. In time, though, you start to see things differently. Praying for a win in a game, for example, makes no sense if you assume that the opponents are doing the same thing! In the end the outcome is decided mainly on skill and teamwork and the best you can do is perfect both and not look for any external intervention. In time you see that prayer can have an effect but that it tends to be indirect. The act of focusing your thoughts in a very skillful and disciplined way—and prayer can be a way of doing that—can lead to the outcomes you seek.

Through countless repetitions of the words in the Three Acts the three words came to mean different things to me:
Faith no longer means suspending belief and acting based on blind trust. It means, rather, putting in place the best structures and supports and expecting them to function in the way intended. It also means having the confidence to proceed with plans and ask for help when necessary.
Love is the opposite of Apathy (and not the opposite of Hate). Showing love means acting in the general service of what we believe to be the right thing under the circumstances.
Hope, perhaps the most intangible, is the thing that keeps us going when the future is most uncertain.

Where is the hope, then? People can see their own lives and what they see is often truly horrible. It took a lot to get where we all are and we cannot be moved easily. It takes a lot of effort. It takes a lot of time. It also takes faith to muster the confidence to get started, love to act, but most importantly it takes hope to sustain it all for the journey is not just long, it is unending.

Perhaps, then, that should be the starting point—to find reasons and ways to find and restore hope. Not an easy job, surely. It requires those unused to listening and to seeing to change their ways, to not act based on their own preexisting beliefs but, instead, to be open to the fact that better ways can be found.

The rain will stop and preparations can begin anew for a new, better harvest. Breast cancer can be defeated and better days can lie ahead for the Mushuau Innu.

As long as there is faith, love, and most importantly, hope.

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About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
This entry was posted in Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, Society and Culture and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Faith, Love and, Most Importantly, Hope

  1. Mjollnir says:

    Another thought provoking and interesting post Maurice – as always. Thanks for the name-check although I’m not too sure I want the bragging rights to that one. Having said that, it’s bucketing down again!!!! 😀

  2. TamrahJo says:

    I, too, pick hope as our greatest tool for survival and the greatest motivator for change…
    🙂 May the Mushuau Innu soon find the way (and support) to create a daily life that is more in tune with their yearnings – that methods of escape, distraction and tranquilization are no longer needed – – I don’t know about there, but here, if they could only comfort themselves through the vices of vast consumption of junk food and TV & go into debt, shopping till they drop, their coping mechanisms would not be so harshly judged.

    🙂 Sad times for many, whether their attempts to endure a life not to their liking are socially acceptable or not.

  3. wisejourney says:

    As long as there is faith, love, and most importantly, hope.

    oh I utterly agree

  4. kanzensakura says:

    Very thoughtful post. thank you. Here is the quote from one of my posts a few days ago and it is uncanny to see you blogging about the same words: “Faith goes up the stairs that love has built and looks out the windows which hope has opened.” C. H. Spurgeon

  5. This reminds me of some of the issues we have going on here in the U.S. I think the WHOLE world could use a dose of faith, love AND hope!

    • Jenn, sometimes I wonder just how far we have come. Our genetic ancestors appeared many tens of millennia ago and we are ALL not so different from the one who was the result of that one, lucky break way back then. Yet, there are so many who act as if they are the next one. Maybe we all need a dose of humility along with a better sense of time 🙂

  6. jennypellett says:

    Hope. It’s such a little word and one that we bandy around everyday without thought to its REAL meaning: ‘hope you’re well;’ ‘hope to see you soon;’ ‘hope the weather’s good for you.’ We use these all the time, as a means to sign off a letter, email or text.
    Now you’ve made me stop and think about it, Maurice, which is what many of your posts do. Thanks for that, truly.

  7. Words, well-considered, to live by. I just returned from what was a final a visit with a terminally-ill relative … it was strange and something I have not had much practice doing. I should think about why I found it strange and then write about it – but I won’t. We got home last night and I only saw your post a moment ago. Your words have only contributed to my weird sense of confusion and bewilderment … I am not even sure those are the correct terms. D

    • Grief is something that enters our lives, uninvited. Though we have no control on its entrance we do get some say on when, and how, it exits. One thing I have learned through experience is that living through grief is complex and a thing that cannot be rushed. Shoo it out and it simply becomes invisible but still present, but now doing its deeds in ways you refuse to see. The process is transformative and we have to allow a certain amount of change to happen in order to process it.
      I can assure you that the evidence-based scientific approach that you take toward life will not let you down. Look for the effects your relative’s life has had on both you and on those who matter to you. Comfort will come from the recognition that it was a life that mattered.

      • Thanks Maurice. You have put into words what I knew to be true … but failed to distill as clearly as you have here. I will pass this along to Joanna …. whow … that was quick, she says, “That was sweet of him.” D

  8. elkement says:

    Again – a great multi-faceted post, I am running out of adjectives. You have sort of invented a new genre, I guess. I enjoy the way you start with a story that gradually meanders and finally becomes and essay on ‘Life, the Universe and Everything’ in a very subtle way.
    In particular, I like your ‘definitions’ of faith, hope and love and your explanation of the effects of prayer:
    ‘The act of focusing your thoughts in a very skillful and disciplined way—and prayer can be a way of doing that—can lead to the outcomes you seek.’
    Probably prayers do also force one to make an attempt at distinguishing between ‘things we can change’ (and motivate us to work on them) in contrast to accepting ‘things we cannot change anyway’ … as the saying goes.

  9. Jane Fritz says:

    OMG, Maurice, you’ve piled this post high with profound reflection. I wish it were three separate posts (or more), so I could respond to each part (except that I’m about to leave for a 3-week holiday so possibly that wouldn’t happen!). I love your “grownup” definitions of Faith, Hope, and Love, and I love your rearranging of order to give greatest focus to hope. I would value a long discussion on what really could be done for Canada’s native population. Our record to date is appalling in the extreme, seemingly devoid of any empathy, deep understanding, or desire to help make change that will respect culture, give people hope, and restore individaul dignity. It is a subject of much heartbreak, and leaves many of us with a sense of total helplessness in how to help make a difference, even at the political level. My old pal, the late Andy Scott, was Min of Aboriginal Affairs as his final postion and oversaw the Kelowna Accord, which as we know was quickly demolished by Harper. Andy had hope that this would have made a difference. I just don’t know. But the people I know who have been the most impressive leaders are people who remain hopeful. We sure need that.

    Keep these thoughts coming. Thanks for this meaningful and powerful post.

    • Now you know me–no way I will say in 100 words what can be said in 1000! You are absolutely correct that the record to date is appalling. As far as I am concerned it comes down to the stupid arrogance that one often associates with the ‘white men from the colonial era’ emphasis on all words. Government offices seem to approach aboriginal culture as a problem to be fixed rather than the two-way conversation (again emphasis on all three words) that it needs to be. Governments seem to approach the situation thinking that aboriginals wish to have what so-called western civilization has so they bribe, cajole and plan in a unilateral fashion. What I think is really needed is a civil two-way conversation that leads to meaningful change and action. Will either of us live long enough to see it?

  10. Another thought provoking post Maurice. I am sad that we still have so many “us” and “them” situations everywhere. We simply cannot see “us” all as “us”. I hope we’ll get there some day. And I like the three prayers. Often ponder about hope and how strong a power it represents in difficult situations. That’s one thing that we can never let go.

    • Aye, without hope, exactly what is left? The restoring of hope is the first step in healing-any healing. Else, why bother?
      Those divisions…so often they are helpful as they let us separate what is from what is not important. Too often, though divisions are done to simply promote individual, selfish causes. The one great weapon we all have, and should use more, is always to find the best possible information before making decisions. Too often, though, those stupid arbitrary lines of distinction are, themselves, the basis.

  11. You’re brave, to confront such difficult problems in writing–

    Of course you’re so right in saying that the only way to move forward is to help the hopeless find reasons to hope and ways to restore hope. But only those, who have themselves truly experienced the bitter bereavement of utter hopelessness, have any credibility with people who remain in hopelessness. It’s easy to say from the outside looking in, “you need to find hope,” but if the speaker has never entirely lost hope and then found it again, they’re speaking easy, but meaningless, platitudes.

    Only those who truly love the hopeless can offer them home. And real love suffers with–experiences and understands the pain of–those in despair. When “hope” is offered, without the deepest kind of love doing the offering, what the hopeless rightfully see being offered to them, is not hope, it’s haughty judgment.

    I know you know what I mean. You said it; I’m just elaborating on it.

    • Just a while ago I saw elsewhere a sign held aloft by some proud “Taxpayer” that said, “Like and Share if you support mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients.” My heart just sank…it sank even further just now as I thought of it. Clearly it was somewhat well intentioned but, oh my, so far off the mark. Those experiencing long term illness, personal tragedy and unemployment–the things that lead to a need for social assistance–can’t really be faulted when they turn to other things for help. Not faulted but helped. People not in great need tend to “otherize” those in pain and the results are truly awful. Obviously I didn’t hit like or share but, unfortunately, neither did I respond with these sentiments so, clearly I could take a dose of my own medicine, eh.

      • Yes, it is so sad. It is so far from the solution. And you’re so right about needs…

        I also think that those who “otherize” the needy, also have a great need–to believe that the destitute people, those in the depths of despair and pain, deserve their suffering. Because if they don’t deserve it, it could happen to me.

        I’m careful, too, about what I like and share on social network sites and don’t always speak my mind because I don’t want to offend my “friends.” I mean, I do consider those people with whom I differ, my friends still, and although I don’t agree with them, I do try to understand them and not anger them. I really feel they don’t know what they’re doing; but I also don’t believe it’s my job or duty to point it out their ignorance because all it would do is make them angry and put a barrier in our relationship. And I don’t want to do that because for some reason, they consider me a friend. So, I understand why you don’t respond to those things on a network. I don’t either.

        But, you have made me think about how, when and where I ought to speak my heart’s truth about the meaning of compassion, and what it looks like, and to whom we owe it.

        I did manage to write an essay which conveys part of it, which will be included in my next book. But I still feel like I’m being rather cowardly, and I am not certain whether I’m being cowardly, or sensitive and sensible, or a little bit of both.

  12. t says:

    Hello Maurice, I am catching up. The beast is indeed many-headed just as our societal challenges appear to be caused by more than one change. Over time it seems these situations become compounded to the point where doing something about them seems almost impossibly difficult. That is very much like cancer. Although ethereal and willow-the-wisp ish hope is all we have. It is all we have ever had. There has never been enough food, water, safety, wellness or certainty for all the creatures, including us human creatures, on this planet. Yet most do not give up, stop living, regress to the point of no return. When all else has been taken or misplaced, even if not permanently, hope is what keeps us here. Often we deny it or lock it away fearing it too will be lost. Sometimes rediscovering the place we hid our hope during times of pain and strife is the most difficult thing. Especially if we hid it away long ago. Whilst it is a hard lesson, one that too often goes unspoken, to rediscover hope and recover from despair must come as much from within as it does from those around us. The Mushuau Inna are us and we are them. I hope that just as one small speck of humanity like me can rediscover hope and recover from the hydra, these brothers and sisters will find that which has been lost, hidden or misplaced and can use it, with help and support, to create a new dawn.

    • Thank you for that Tracy. Clearly, with what you have been true these past few years you truly get it.Yes, each of us needs to learn to her/his own part, however small. You know what: I can easily live in a world with strife, pain and sorrow since something can always be done to help. A world without hope, though, is something else completely.

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