Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
I lost my truck the other day.
That’s the little red truck I’d had for 13 years for hauling wood, lumber, mulch, compost, rugs, neighbors’ old furniture, dirt—yes, just plain ol’ dirt.
That little red truck was part of me—my outdoorsy, garden-growing, firewood-collecting, mulch-spreading me. It was a part of me so basic that I ache with a sense of loss.
Ok, I didn’t really lose it; I sold it, but to me it was another loss. We don’t need two vehicles now and especially not a truck. No gardens, no fire places, no wood shop any more.
I’ve also lost my wheelbarrow, which had been my constant outdoor companion for 35 years. I’ve lost all those things. Some people will tell you I’m a bit crazy letting this stuff get to me. It’s like losing my favorite ol’ shirt or hat that’s weathered life with me—that gave me a good sense of my identity and vitality. Like an ol’ shirt or hat, that little red truck carried smells, aromas, memories of life’s little joys.
This aging thing is not easy. Every time I turn around, time—with a little help from friends—grabs something else. Something precious—at least something precious to me. Stability of walking. Strength. House. Vision. Hearing. Even the grocery store on the corner is gone!
One very deep sense of loss is the feeling that our country, one which I had hoped and believed we were improving, feels like it has taken major steps backward. There is a new wave of disrespect, of objectifying persons by race, class, sexual orientation or religion. I was never so naive as to believe we had dispelled racism, but it has raised its ugly head again and is looking all of us in the eye. I marched for civil rights in the ’60s. I was the founding pastor of a church that was 25% integrated when I left it in the hands if two pastors. It gives me hope that it is now even more integrated with skin color of every hue.
Everyday, I continue to resist losing the things I cannot do without—gratitude, hope, a sense of purpose—those simple things that give me a reason to get up in the morning and for which I give thanks at the end of the day.
One simple act that gives me hope is learning the name of any clerk who serves me in a store. I address the person by name and offer a smile and greeting. I have experienced remarkable appreciation as a result of this simple gesture. My guess is that often these men and women feel unnoticed and unappreciated. It doesn’t take much to change that.
I can even delight and smile broadly when I pray: Dear God, when I get to heaven, I hope I will find my ol’ shirt and hat hanging on the fence post and I can slip behind the wheel of my little red truck and haul compost and mulch and spread it around the gardens from my ol’ wheelbarrow!
In these troubling times, what are you losing? Or giving up?
And, even more importantly, where do you find delight? What sparks your hopes?
I invite you to share this column with friends to spark discussion. Yes, it’s fine to print out this column for your class or small group.
Care to read more?
DEADLY SINS—In 2017, Benjamin Pratt also is publishing an occasional series on the so-called Deadly Sins. Here is his first reflection on Greed, published earlier this year.
AND, GET THE BOOK—Benjamin Pratt is the author of a book-length exploration of Ian Fleming’s life-long fascination with the challenge of “deadly sins.” In fact, Fleming believed that the traditional deadly sins should be updated with sins of the contemporary world—a theme he explored in his Bond novels. Learn more by getting a copy of Ian Fleming’s Seven Deadlier Sins & 007’s Moral Compass.