“Instead, evaluate what you are doing, why you are doing it, and where accomplishing it will take you. If you don’t have a good answer, then stop.” (from The Daily Stoic:366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living, Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman)
How do you convince yourself and others that you live in hope? How do you communicate the intensity of your emotions leading you to a future rooted in hope?
As a person of faith, I am guided by these words from Philippians 3:8-9. “Finally beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing these things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”
My language of hope begins and ends in attending to the “suffering” of others. My language of hope is based on a deeply held belief that in the end peace will reign and all suffering will end. That’s one of my core beliefs.
My language of hope also takes its meaning from the quote at the beginning of this post. If I don’t have a good reason for what I am doing, why I am doing it, and where accomplishing my task will lead me, it’s time to stop and put my actions into a more discernible perspective.
Up until I was about 37 years old, most of my actions, decisions, and goals were about getting what I wanted. But on January 28, 1986 two tragedies occurred that changed my focus forever. That was the day the Challenger Space Shuttle blew up. Most of the world watched the horror live on TV.
This was the first time a school teacher had been a member of the NASA crew. I watched eagerly, as did many other educators and students, to cheer on, dream on, Christa McAuliffe’s presence on board the shuttle.
I could only imagine what heartache her students and fellow faculty members must have experienced, watching in real time, the horror of her death. How did they speak of hope that day?
Later that evening I answered a phone call from one of my administrative colleagues at the school where I was employed. I thought she was calling to talk about the Challenger disaster and how we administrators would handle the situation the next day at school. But her call brought me even more bad news. I could tell it was something profound she was about to tell me.
The head of the school where we worked had been in a car accident, returning from a basketball game some 40 miles from school. A drunk driver swerved into his car, instantly killing him while severely injuring several other passengers in the car.
The head of our independent school was a “bigger than life” presence. His sudden death, on top of the Challenger disaster, was too much grief for me to bear. Yet within several hours, there I was addressing the school, making plans for a funeral and considering how to deal with the faulty and students at the school.
In the midst of this, the chairman of the school board arrived in my office to report that the school board had selected me to be the interim head of school, to get us through the crisis. That next morning, after it was announced that I would be presiding over the school at least for the near term future, many of the other senior faculty and administration let it be known they believed I was not the correct choice. Quite frankly I had my own doubts with the board’s choice.
As I walked alone around the campus, it dawned on me that people were expecting me to be an adult. They were correct that I wasn’t the right person for the job, but the job was mine – I could not escape. That day I left childish ways behind and began to act as an adult, or at least what I thought an adult should do.
Most of the adults I knew at the school had some sense of joy and hope in their hearts, even as we all tried to make sense of the Challenger disaster and the senseless loss of a beloved head of school. My language, my words, all had to change. I thought of the scripture I mentioned in this post. I also realized that no action, no words, no gestures could be made or uttered unless I was sure they led folks towards hope. There could be no imprecise words.
The language of hope can be expressed in many ways. I used the tools found in this post to help me find new words. I ask you to consider what words you will use to convey hope, to convey a future rooted in hope, when you are called upon to be the adult, putting others’ needs before your own.
And may you know peace in your heart when you finish your tasks.