Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hope in the Heat of It

Hotel Empire #1
Upper West Side at Dusk
“Hope is the feeling you have that the feeling you have isn’t permanent.” - Mignon McLaughlin

A few weeks ago, back in August (remember August?), I headed from Hebrew class to the grocery store, dragging my text books with me. I bought some food for the week and started on my six-block walk home. I was heavy-laden, between the books and the groceries, and the night air was hot, humid, unmoving.

Now, if I haven’t already made this clear here, I hate being hot. I hate humidity and I hate sweating. As such, summer is my “angry season.” But that night, trudging home from the store, I found that I wasn't as annoyed by the heat as I am normally.

Sure, my initial thought upon exiting the air-conditioned store was "Ugh! Hot!" but that was quickly followed by "Well, whaddya gonna do?” The week before, temperatures had been unseasonably cool. I knew September was right around the corner. Summer’s days were numbered and the heat was on its way out.

That foretaste of coolness, coupled with the fact that summer does indeed have an end (proven by 32 years of past experience) and that end was near, made the night heat easier to bear. It wasn’t that I was less hot than I had been back in, say, July. I just had hope that the heat was fleeting, and that made the experience more agreeable. The heat felt more like a blanket to snuggle up in, rather than an oppressive force to fight against.

It got me thinking about hope, and about how it’s easier to have hope in some areas of life than in others. Hope for the end of summer was a cheap kind of hope, because I already had glimpses that it was near and a sure knowledge that it would arrive as it always does. That hope made it easier to be patient with the current season, because I knew a new season was right around the corner.

But what about other areas of my life? How do I weather those (metaphorical) seasons, when I’m not sure of their duration or outcome?

Sometimes I beat myself up for not having more hope for these uncertain areas, but there’s no need for that. For one thing, I doubt self-chastisement very often produces hope. Mostly it just produces guilt. And also – hope can just be plain hard sometimes. It’s good to cut myself some slack and realize that.

So when it comes to hope – that “feeling [I] have that the feeling [I] have isn’t permanent” – I’m trying to remember that, in the absence of signs and sure-fire timetables, when the end is not so clearly in sight, to ask Someone else to help me on the hope front. And trust that He’ll answer, as He’s answered me before.

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