I visited with a young friend of mine in the Bay area this past weekend. I have had the privilege of watching her grow into a phenomenal person, and now that she’s a young adult and living not too far away from me, we try to get together when time and schedules allow.
As we wandered through a bookstore, talking of books and more, she asked something along the lines of, “Will things get better?” I don’t remember her exact phrasing because the question caught and jangled around in my brain for a moment before I realized what she meant.
The bookseller seemed to be waiting for my answer, and the three of us had a brief conversation about cynicism and hope and a belief that things may get worse but, ultimately, will get better. Sometimes life is like that, right? Things have to get worse before they can get better? They have to get worse so we take notice and work to make them better.
A large part of my hope stems from my faith and unshakeable belief that love wins in the end. Some of my hope comes from the way I see strangers uniting to speak out against hate. My travels—both real and virtual—also give me reason to hope.
This Monday, America’s attention turned toward the sky. We listened to the scientists, and allowed ourselves to become giddy over a natural phenomenon happening outside of our control. We shared eclipse glasses with one another. We stuck our heads in cardboard boxes. We overwhelmed social media sites to share photos of the eclipse and crescent-shaped images reflecting through trees and colanders and pinhole paper. Much-needed joy buoyed our collective spirits that day, and joy and wonder continue as new photos emerge from the eclipse.
My recent trip to the northern part of California’s coast also offered me hope. In these beautiful, magical places, I saw goodness and kindness in people. For the most part, these appeared in small gestures: an offer to take a picture so a whole group could be in a photo together, a helping hand over a tall tree (thank you, kind stranger, who saw that it would take both my husband and you to get me over that ginormous fallen tree in the creek), patience while waiting for someone else to get through a tight spot on the path. I heard many different languages out there among the trees, and no one seemed bothered by the otherness of one another.
Not everyone behaved well, of course. A few people insisted on bringing their dogs on trails where the park service posted clear “no dog” signs. I spotted trash among the grand trees and along the beaches.
At one hard-to-access beach, a sign asked every visitor to carry out one or two pieces of trash. Though the need for the sign made me sad, the cleanliness of that beach filled me with hope. The only trash I had to carry out was the tea bag I brought in with me. For that one beach, on that one morning at least, a problem had gotten better.
Perhaps this all points to an antidote to despair and cynicism when we start asking each other, “Will things get better?” Simply this: Go outside to gaze at the splendor of this world we all share.
I know not all of you can take the time or spend the money to travel right at the moment (what with bills to pay, jobs to work, children to get back to school). So for the next few weeks, I’ll share some special places, sights, or creatures with you that may spark a hope in you that things will get better.
I also challenge you to find the wonder around you, whether you’re in the midst of a bustling urban center or in a quiet, rural place. When you find it, I hope you’ll share it here.