Returning home after a holiday visit to Washington, I stopped at a newsstand store in the Seattle airport to pick up some last minute goodies. As I was paying, the woman at the counter asked, “Would you like to donate one dollar to help the people who lost their homes in the fire in California?” I’m not sure why I was taken by surprise, but I was. Perhaps because we were in another state far from home, but this gesture of goodwill sharpened my awareness. And gave me hope.
This past year brought quite a lot of devastation to our country and across the globe. And not just natural disasters, but random and not so random acts of violence as well. Two hit pretty close to home.
A Saturday afternoon in July, my husband and I decided to walk the dogs in the park, putting off our grocery shopping trip to our neighborhood Trader Joes until the next day. That very afternoon, there was a three-hour hostage standoff inside that store and shooting that killed one employee. When we heard the news later, we were shocked to realize that we might have been caught right in the middle of it if we hadn’t changed our plans. I thought of all the employees I knew, their friendliness and warmth, and imagined how horrible that day must’ve been.
On a morning in November, I attended an active-shooter training for my work in putting together our school’s emergency plan. I heard a first hand account from a police officer that was with his family at the Las Vegas concert in 2017 when a gunman opened fire on the crowd. How he was shot but managed to get his wife to safety, having to leave other family members behind to get out as best they could. We have all read the new stories, but this man sharing it personally brought the terror to life. And that night, an active shooter killed 13 and injured dozens in a bar an hour away from my home.
It wasn’t the violence of two events that stay with me, however. It was the outpouring of support, kindness, help given afterwards that just like the woman in the airport, shore up my sense of hope.
The billboard right next to the Trader Joes says it all. How the small gestures mean so much when the devastation feels so big. How most impactful is simply showing up, lending an ear or a shoulder, grieving with those who have lost. Being present means standing witness and builds hope in us all.
In these times of fires and floods, active shooters and hijacked car chases, I take hope. Hope in the essential goodness that resides within us. That we will reach out, will take a stand, will hold a hand, will lift up.
As you reflect on the past year and look to the new one, I hope that within any heartache, personal or community loss, social or political disenchantment, you hold on to hope. Let hope be your lifeline, your go to, your pass it along in small acts of kindness. Our world certainly needs it.