Our Hope Is Ours

There’s so much that I want to convey, but the very first piece of it must be hope. I will begin and end this post with hope, because no matter what happens, I refuse to lose that.

My own personal transitions over the last several years aside, it’s been difficult to write something up here at Naps, and I’ve archived all of my older stuff to start over. Strange as it may seem, today is the perfect day to do so. The results of this year’s election had me horrified to the point where I couldn’t speak without crying for some time, and throughout the night, I tossed and turned and prayed that this was just some terrible nightmare. I watched, throughout the course of the day, as the people I love tried to sort through their anger and pain so that they could come up with a plan to survive this current administration. For a good chunk of the morning, I felt helpless, and I wasn’t initially successful in putting on the mask of bravery and fearlessness that I thought my students needed to see.

I’m not sure when it happened. Maybe it was this morning before work that it began, when I’d had a few (interrupted) hours of sleep to let this mess begin to settle, or maybe it was on the drive in as I listened to Sherlock Holmes audiobooks. More likely, though, it was when I stood in front of my 8th graders reading The Outsiders to them, and I saw a boy watching me with wide eyes as I spoke.

This boy was so engrossed in the story that, for the half hour or so that I read, there was nothing else in the world. It occurred to me then that my world, this world, hadn’t gone away because of one election. It was still here in front of me, with bright eyes and eager questions. It was on that boy’s face when he’d so long protested that he hated reading, but today, he was enraptured by the story.

This isn’t about me. This isn’t about the president-elect. This is about what we choose to do now with the situation we have been given. We can still make a difference for one person every day. Donations, volunteer work, activism… and teaching. We need to teach as much as we need to love. Frankly, I can’t always distinguish between the two anymore. Love can’t be selfish, and as much as we want to curl up in a ball and lick our wounds, we can’t afford much of that selfishness right now. We need to care for ourselves, of course, but then we need to care for each other. We need to shut down the hostile speech we hear one kid hurling at another, even if they don’t think it’s a big deal, and we need to explain a better way to communicate. We need to protect the people around us, even if that protection means from ourselves. We need to speak up and speak out. We need to act.

We are not a country lost; rather, we are a country divided, and the only way to overcome that is through action. Love is an action. Stop focusing on the noun and turn your attention to the verb. Love. Love the ideals of this country that you hold so dear you want to scream. Love the cracking, wobbling voices articulating their thoughts regardless of how unsure and afraid they are. Love the adults who let their fear become their rage and show them the compassion that they’ve forgotten. Love the screaming, jumping, howling people who refuse to be forgotten or ignored. Love the little ones who look at us with wide eyes and wait for the stories they can’t let their friends know they need. Love the frightened voices in the dead of night who can’t remember right now that the sunrise is coming. Love the promises you made to yourself before you learned to be cynical and skittish. Love every piece of you, even if you see yourself as broken, and change the parts that need changing.

I refuse to stop loving. To lose love is to despair, and I will not let that happen. I know what it is to open your eyes and stare at nothing for almost an hour because you have to fight with yourself to get up. I know what it is to imagine what the world will be like five years after you’ve died and to wonder if it will be better. What I also know is that I will not be broken by anyone, least of all myself.

Things will be better. I have faith in that the way some people have faith in religion. It has to be better. I won’t allow it to be anything less because I will spend every day of my life fighting to make it better, even if it’s only in a small way that impacts one person’s life.

Because, you know, that isn’t small. Finding a child who hates to read and giving them a story that adds the wonder back into their eyes that encroaching adulthood tries to steal away? That’s making the world better. Telling someone that they matter to you could wind up saving their life. That’s making the world better.

It will be hard, there’s no question about that, but we cannot falter now. We need to stand up and raise our voices. We need to listen to the stories people are telling us. We cannot lose hope. Stand together. We will not allow our future to be stolen from us. Our worlds haven’t gone away. They’re darker, but the dawn is coming. We just need to hold hands and guide each other through the night.