René González, ARCORES Brasil
A friend asked me to consider writing something “nice” instead of talking about the poverty, violence, selfishness, and tragedy in which the world is immersed.
That friend’s request made me think. That’s what some friends make you do: think. In fact, I thought about what he was asking me to do and why. So, this article might turn out to be nice, or maybe not.
I think that friend, like many of us, wants to hear that, in the midst of all the violence, poverty, and tragedy that engulfs the world, humanity and hope exist. It is as if we long for a respite or a break from the reality that surrounds us. Otherwise, we would sink deeper into resignation and despair.
St. Augustine said that hope elevates our soul, “which cannot subsist without joy, even when we find ourselves in painful trances during this life and full of anxieties and storms” (Serm. 145).
In reality, I am not the person who has all the answers and solutions for everything. I would not even know how to advise you where and how to find hope, in particular. We are all in the same boat. With that caveat, I will try to write to that friend and to you (if you are willing), where I find hope without succumbing to sentimentality. As for prescriptions on how to rediscover “humanity,” I leave that ancient conundrum to historians, sociologists and philosophers.
There are two ways, I believe, in which most people live life.
Widow with five children
My friend from the Rocinha (“community” of Rio de Janeiro) has lived what would be called an “unconscious life”, according to some currents of modern thinking in psychology. She was widowed relatively young and dedicated all her time, exclusively, to raising her five children. I imagine that, for this woman, it was impossible to have the energy and time to read anything about philosophy, let alone pause to reflect on the violence, ugliness, and rage of the world, despite having endured it all in her own flesh. She was preoccupied with her own problems and how to care for her children.
Every day she got up and went to work to earn a little money and provide some stability for her children. She didn’t even have a TV, radio, car, or time for family celebrations or vacations. She only had time to work, take care of the family, sleep and repeat all the things again the next day. It was a really hard life. The goal was to keep his boat of needs afloat (with his children in it) as best he could. Her life was an example of persistence and sacrifice.
This year, two of her daughters experienced one of life’s commemorative moments that make joy and hope possible: they graduated. One in vocational training and the other in college. Both say they would like to help those who need help.
I find hope, in large part, where my friend found hope. She found hope in her children and family. You too can find that same hope. True friends or the religious community itself are a force of encouragement and hope in our lives.
An example in Sierra Leone
Beyond the family, there are human beings like Ambrose Koroma, a doctor and teacher in Sierra Leone who really suffered during the war. I have sometimes told my friends several stories about Ambrose because he is the epitome of hope.
Anyone who has known his family history will know the greatness of this man. Two of his daughters were raped by rebel soldiers during the war in Sierra Leone. Ambrose went from being a father dominated by grief and rage to being an apostle of hope and God’s grace. In fact, he was able to heal even the same rebel soldier who raped one of his daughters.
Charity and forgiveness
I was privileged to listen and learn from Ambrose. I learned that violence, tragedy, and anger can be overcome by understanding, compassion, and love. I learned that anger is unsustainable and ultimately corrodes the soul. I learned that charity is the tangible action of hope.
Ambrose does not lecture, but encourages or encourages others to do what he has done: heal people who need to be healed; forgive people who need to be forgiven; and stand up for hope when it seems naïve or ridiculous.
Dear friend, thank you for making me think and remember. You too have new reasons to find hope every day. In ARCORES, the Augustinian Recollect International Solidarity Network, we propose solidarity as an instrument for living hope and encountering God through people.