You wrote to me from the ICU waiting room at 1:37 A.M. this morning. In your email you told me about your daughter, fighting to stay alive. You told me that you were a mess. You said you needed a smile.
Then you finished by asking a simple question. You asked what I believe Hope is.
And you spelled it with a capital H.
Normally I wouldn’t answer a question like this because, I think we can all agree, I ain’t a very smart guy. In fact, I’m a putz. But you seemed desperate. So if my mediocre, halfcocked words can give you a few moments of calm, then, well…
Words you shall have.
So Hope. Capital H. I submit that, for this column, we pretend Hope is not merely a four-letter word or a positive feeling. Let’s make Hope tangible; a three-dimensional object. That way we can hold it. Touch it.
Let’s say that Hope (capital H) is actually a one-pound shaker of arts-and-craft glitter.
Have you ever fooled around with glitter? It’s messy stuff. Glitter is a clean freak’s nightmare. Any second-grade teacher will tell you that glitter is a communicable disease.
Yesterday, for instance, my wife visited my cousin’s kid’s playroom where unsupervised children were playing with illegal quantities of glitter. Their sparkly hands touched my wife, who in turn touched me. And that was all it took.
Currently, there are stubborn pieces of glitter in my teeth, on my keyboard, and in my eye sockets. There will be glitter in my casket.
Because you can’t end glitter. You can’t fight it. You can’t eradicate it. Try washing your hands; glitter will laugh at you.
Hope is like glitter. It doesn’t take much. And it really hangs on.
Although I also believe Hope is fuel, like gasoline. To explain what I mean let’s use a hypothetical anecdote.
First, for this illustration, let’s pretend you have a 1977 two-door hatchback Chevy Chevette, identical to the one my uncle owned.
Now let us say this ugly, 1.4 liter, 57 horsepower, rusted piece of persecution is currently parked in the Baptist parking lot during service.
Let’s say you’re a 14-year-old boy who decides to “borrow” your uncle’s Chevette without permission while your uncle is inside serving as a church-greeter/usher.
Oh, and one more thing. Your uncle—who has no idea you’re confiscating his four cylinder for a joyride with your pal Andrew—forgets to mention that his gas gauge is broken.
You with me so far? Great.
Now let us say that you and Andrew illegally hotwire your uncle’s Chevy and drive it 19 miles south until you find yourself in a desolate rural landscape during an age before cellphone communication.
Then your car stalls.
So now your ‘77 Chevette, with its 1,843 pounds of lifeless curb weight, begins to cough, sputter and finally runs out of precious gasoline.
Congratulations. You are now in the middle of a vacant two-lane, with longhorn cattle all around you, and Chevy’s worst engineering concept under your haunches.
Fortunately, your uncle has a CB radio under his dashboard because he is a longtime fan of “Smokey and the Bandit.” So you use the radio and are somehow put in touch with the highway patrol.
In mere minutes a patrolman arrives to find two underaged idiots in the frontseat of a ‘77 Chevette that is deader than ragtime.
And this officer, let’s call him Officer “Foul Mood,” escorts you both to the church, which, keep in mind, is still in service.
Instead of the officer waiting for church to end, the uniformed man marches the 14-year-old lawbreakers down the center aisle during the sermon to establish contact with your uncle who, as I said, is an usher. Although not for long.
Now let us think about the above scenario for a moment. What am I saying here? For starters, I am saying that you should never buy a ‘77 Chevette.
But I am also saying that Hope is the combustible fuel that keeps your engine running. Without it, your vehicle dies.
I am not being figurative. Hope is vital. Hope is calories for the soul. Hope might be the most important element of your humanhood. And the truly great thing about Hope is that it’s transferable.
Remember all that glitter business I was talking about? You can pass along Hope as easily as glitter. Which is why I am writing to you now.
So to the anonymous woman who emailed me this morning, who needs Hope for her daughter:
I am not a clever man, as I have just demonstrated. I have no inside information, I have no idea what you’re going through. I wish I could tell you the future, but I can’t.
Even so, I know one thing. I know something beautiful is coming your way. I know that it’s just over the horizon. I don’t know what this something is. I don’t know when it will arrive. But I know it’s real. I know because I’ve touched it. And so have you.
And although life itself seems bleak right now, this is not the end. You have no reason to believe the words this lone putz says, but with all my heart I Hope you know I love you.