You’ve gotta have hope
Mustn’t sit around and mope
Nothin’s half as bad as it may appear
Wait’ll next year and hope
. Richard Adler & Jerry Ross
Yeah, it’s like that; except not really. Except not at all.
Pam stepped out of the shower, this morning, and said, “If you ain’t got hope, you ain’t got nuthin'”
Fair enough. She’s gotta have hope. I’ve gotta have hope. All of you have gotta have hope as well. So, what exactly is this hope I “gotta have”? My boss (and friend!), Ross Ellenhorn, who recently lost his sister-in-law, told me, back when she was still fighting for life, that hope is different than optimism.
“We’re not optimistic,” he told me, “if we were, we’d be fooling ourselves — but we’re hopeful.”
Yeah, it’s like that.
This is the kind of trial, they say, that tries your faith in God. I don’t know about that. It’s not as if God ever promised me there’d be no suffering or loss. When you come right down to it, it seems to me that She (or, if you must, ‘He’) promised the opposite. Pam feels some sort of compulsion to keep telling me, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have to go through this.” Shouldn’t have to go through this?? Says who? As I recall it, back on that day we were standing with each other at the alter in front of the Episcopal Divinity Chapel, Fr. John O’Malley directed our attention to the inevitability of “sickness and health”, about an arrangement that doesn’t end “till death do you part.” I don’t see why my faith in God should be tried. If anything, God has has delivered on His promise — I’m getting exactly what I signed up for!
Like Ross and his family, I’m definitely not optimistic. The question I’m asking myself now is, “Am I hopeful?” If I am, what am I hoping for?
I’m hoping that it all means something. I’m hoping love means something. I’m hoping my love for Pam, and her love for me means something. My life’s work calls me to be with people who “go through” a lot worse than I ever will. It’s rare, in my field, that I get a client who doesn’t think of “checking out” from time to time. You might say that my job is to sit with people who are desperate to know “what it all means”. Maybe I’m not feeling as if my faith is being tried because these questions of meaning and purpose aren’t new to me. Not new at all.
It seems to me that meaning isn’t something “out there”, something to search for, something you need to infuse your life with when you find it. It can’t be that. Nobody’s going to deliver some sort of meaning to me from “out there”, not any kind of meaning that will do me any good. If there’s an answer to the “what’s it all about?” question, it’s inside me. If I’m going to have hope, I’m going to start by believing that human beings are “meaning makers”. This wonderful business that’s been going on for twenty-three years, this ‘Pam and Paul’ thing, is wonderful precisely because we’ve made it meaningful.
I’m different, and better than I was for loving Pam. Permanently different. Our love means something because she’s made it mean something, because we’ve made it mean something. There’s hope in that. God’s glory is in that. Some people see the glory of God when they view a magnificent mountain. I suppose they do, but that doesn’t change the fact that a mountain is nothing but a big rock. There’s got to be more glory in human life, and in the love we humans have for each other. I find God’s glory every day in the love Pam and I share.
What am I hoping for? I’m hoping that I’m right in believing that this love that has so much meaning for us will always have meaning for us. Maybe I’m not hoping for that. Maybe I don’t need to hope for it because I already know it.
Sometimes, when Pam and I are reunited after a time apart, she asks me if I’ve missed her and I always tell her I have; but the truth of it is that I never miss her that much because I never really feel as if we’re apart. There’s hope in that. There’s hope in the knowledge that every day counts for something — every minute. Our time together counts for something because we choose to make our love mean something. We’re the ‘meaning makers’ and we mean to mean the world to each other.
Like Ross, I feel hopeful even though I don’t feel optimistic at all. I’m hoping to make our day together today mean so much that I won’t feel the need to try to count our tomorrows.