I’ll never forget the time hope showed up sporting a pair of geriatric shoes.
She stood slightly hunched over on a trail of asphalt one gray evening. To her left was a small-town harbor where gentle waves lapped against a few docked boats. To her right sat a city park that had echoed its share of gunshots in recent months. Dozens of people convened in the park that night to walk silently in the name of peace. Most were young and able-bodied thinking nothing of moving a mile in quiet protest. But toward the back of the pack was an older woman for whom mobility was not a given.
I watched as this woman and her geriatric shoes shuffled and labored for each step. The heels of her walker grinded against the pavement. I’m sure her feet ached. And still, she showed up.
This Benedictine Sister of Erie, Pennsylvania believed that neighborhood peace is possible. She embodied her hope by showing up, walker and all.
Hope moves the body to places where the heart is called. It’s always been that way. A loving mother birthed hope into this world some 2,000 years ago and wrapped him in swaddling clothes. Jesus Christ—our divine brother—with fingers and feet and a heart that beats for all embodied hope. Baptized into this legacy, we are called to continue the bringing of hope by being ourselves. We embody hope simply by showing up.
Think of all the places and people that have longed for hope since the time of Jesus and the myriad ways hope manifests in the ordinary. Back then hope showed up to a tax collector’s house for dinner. Today hope shows up to a grieving neighbor’s porch with a casserole. Then hope showed up beside a hemorrhaging woman in a crowd. Today hope shows up beside a sick friend stuck in the hospital. Then hope showed up enraged at the temple. Today hope shows up determined, with protest signs at refugee detention centers.
Time and again hope shows up in the cracks of our broken world ready to heal.
Do you see hope? Are you hope?
It can be hard to spot hope in the thick of injustice. Another black man shot dead in the street. A Mexican mom caged along the border. Too many limping along without jobs or access to good health care. Too many facing abuse or neglect. Evil makes it easy to wonder if hope truly does exist. Not so long ago people crucified hope and sentenced hope to death. Many today keep trying to nail shut the coffin.
But we know the truth: Hope always wins.
Hope rose on the third day and lives on in the hands and hearts of people everywhere and always. Good, ordinary people show up with their walkers to march for peace. Hope does not make pain any less real. Hope gives us reason to keep going. It lights a fire in the deepest core of our beings, reminding us that better days will dawn.
Soon, purple cloth and festive wreathes will adorn churches around the world. The season of Advent is a season of awaiting the hope who showed up on the floor of a lowly stable and went on to save the world. Jesus Christ, our fully human God, graced the daily with the divine. How will each of us embody that legacy? Where will you show up?
This article also appears in the November 2018 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 83, No. 11, page 10).