Carrying Hope This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

April 30, 2010
Small gasps escape and open-mouthed,
I gaze into the reflecting pool.
One lingering question hides amid the blackness:
How can each of us carry hope?

I wasn’t face to face with the men as they stormed the beaches of Normandy,
but their pain bleeds out of the particular pages
of my tattered school history book,
and I imagine the gaping wounds that go untreated
on the arms of bloodied and tireless soldiers,
as Grandpa, slightly tipsy, tells old war stories
and I shudder to hear
the whizzing of bullet shots, trampling of feet, and screams of pain...
I only think of a need for peace.

I will never completely understand the horrors
that keep one paralyzed with fear
in the middle of the night, begging
please, Lord, let it not be my family next
as the real miseries release
the thunderclaps and heavy clouds,
descending down: it begins to pour on all that is dear until
there is a danger of drowning
and all is lost in the flood.

I’m surprised and terrified as I peer into the mirror’s reflection,
but I can’t turn my back
on the ravenous, gaunt faces
of the prisoners of falsely accused crimes:
they do not recall what it is that they are being punished for.
Their bony noses press between the cold iron bars,
trying to breathe in a freedom
that was stolen; they count the days
slowly wasting away.
Helplessly, I watch.

Little Jewish girls substitute for dolls stray dandelions
that grow freely, tantalizingly just out of reach
unhindered on the other side,
and strangers for families that have slowly “disappeared”
into the common unmarked grave.
They stare at all that was and could be one too many steps beyond.
I cry at this intolerance in the most evil form and pray for courage.

Young men, one black and one white, stare inquisitively into each others eyes,
searching for answers, always,
as they are forced into separate but not equal,
and there is a demanding cry for justice
that is resounded into the
long lines of Sunday-dressed ladies
taking to the polls for the first time, chanting this message into my heart:
At long last: our voice really matters.

I cannot compass the quantity of untold sufferings,
but I see pain clearly: unwarranted deaths and scars
that bloody and mar the land in deep thick red,
with the bodies of some just barely clinging to life.
I mourn, and wonder.
Where does tomorrow’s happiness hide
among the ruins caused by the intolerance, injustice and hatred
strewn out before me?

I search for hope
in the declarations, speeches, and promises scribbled on parchment,
in the first mouth watering taste of warm, crusted bread,
in the sapphire blue, cloudless sky.

However, I find hope
in the audacity of children, tenderly created dandelion dolls,
in the picture of a curly blonde pigtailed girl
found in the shredded pocket of a fallen marine,
in a voice that shouts out an opinion and is acknowledged,
and even in the last words whispered, the dying
that desire a better tomorrow for those who must go forward into life.

And suddenly I realize
how I can make sense of these universal sorrows,
and how I can now bear this burden.

I translate the pain into a promise for a better tomorrow
and am forever grateful for the compounding sacrifice of so many.
They have given me the courage to carry hope.

Of what I am convinced?
Held in the reflection of sorrow and remembrance,
I am strengthened and lifted by their struggles.
Truth: there is choice.
There is chance.
And we must go on.

Hope is a sustaining light,
folded carefully into secret corners of the soul.
Outshining the bleakness of despair,
we step forward into our lives.

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