There’s this show I adore called Schitt’s Creek. It got me through a pandemic, repatriation, a breast cancer scare, and an unexpected divorce in 2020. I still watch it every night before bed to help me fall asleep.
In episode six of season three of the show, two characters are leaving their job at a motel to go to a meeting. The woman props up a “Back in 15 Minutes” sign on the front desk. The man frowns and says, “Well, it’s going to take a lot longer than fifteen minutes.”
To which the woman replies: “You’ve got to give people hope.”
I feel this deep in my bones. No, I’m not talking about sticking your head in the sand or your fingers in your ears. I’m not talking about putting on a fake, happy, hopeful face in the midst of everything (marriage, country, life) going to shit all around us. And I’m reeeeally not talking about putting your hope in some far-off-in-the-distance possibly-a-figment-of-our-imagination afterlife.
But I still believe you’ve got to give people hope.
Sometimes you’ve got to put that sign on the desk to encourage folks (yourself included) that there’s a ray of light and hope at the end of the seemingly forever-long dark tunnel. And I really do believe—despite all damning evidence to the contrary—that we have reason to keep hoping.
So, where are we supposed to find this hope? you might be asking. Good question.
It’s actually in a lot of places if we can muster the energy to lift up our heads for a minute and look around. There’s hope in blooming flowers. There’s hope in delicious food. In your favorite hobby. In brilliant sitcoms. In the laughter of the people you love. The list is endless.
One place I’ve found hope lately (okay, always) is in books. Specifically, books written by people who have been through a whole hell of a lot and have still found something to put their hope in. Even more specifically, Black authors, Indigenous authors, and other authors of color who have found hope for centuries in this country that was built on white supremacy, stolen land, stolen bodies, stolen labor, and stolen lives—and continues to perpetuate injustice.
And, yet, they hold on to hope.
African American spirituals. Indigenous peoples saying “we’re still here.” People fighting to make Black Lives Matter. Queer and disabled people pushing for rights we all should have. People resisting and revolting with their actions and their words—and demonstrating love in the midst of hate.
Hope, hope, hope.
Hope is essential to any political struggle for radical change when the overall social climate promotes disillusionment and despair.
It is in collectivities that we find reservoirs of hope and optimism.
—Angela Y. Davis
We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
—Martin Luther King Jr.
Sometimes, when everything feels literally hopeless, I borrow the hope of others until I feel it myself. And then I pay it forward and do this for other people.
I meet a lot of folks who are at the beginning of a faith deconstruction journey, just starting to wake up, to question long-held beliefs. Their worry and fear are palpable. All they can see is the crumbling, the slippery slope, the inevitable crash, the painful burn.
They can’t see a path forward. They can’t see the hope. And I offer my words—and my experiences—as living breathing proof that hope is real. That there is goodness up ahead on the road, that things will not always feel as disorienting and terrifying as they do right now.
And that we can even find hope while we’re in the middle of all of that.
And, unlike my regurgitated rhetoric in the books from the first few decades of my life, these days I’m not talking about the “hope of heaven.” For so many people, offering platitudes about eternal happiness after you’re dead is how they plan on getting through this life on earth. For others, that heaven talk is how they discourage people from speaking up against injustice in the here and now.
Enslaved people were told not to worry about their chains—they’d be free in heaven someday. People in poverty are told by colonizing missionaries that “salvation” is more important than having food to feed their starving children. Hurting people are told that God will wipe the tears from their eyes “someday.” Just not today.
Back in the day, every damn thing I did had to have a “kingdom purpose,” and that purpose was “saving souls.” And what were they being saved from? Eternal fiery torment. What were they being saved to? An eternity of walking streets of gold in white robes with God.
As lovely (boring) as that sounds, I’m done with it. Now I’m like, let’s just spread love and kindness and sunshine to people during their lifetime here on earth. Let’s pay reparations and make things fair and give everybody access to everything they need to be whole today.
Let’s right wrongs right now.
Let’s live as if this one wild and precious life (shout-out to Mary Oliver) is all we have. If something fun (like mansions or gold streets or all the Thai food I can eat) comes after it, well, then that’s a nice bonus.
Let’s love ourselves now, love our neighbors now. Love all of everybody now. Love, love, love.
Where do I find hope today? I find it in love. The Bible has this really famous passage where it talks about these three things remaining: faith, hope, and love. “And the greatest of these is love.” Paul and I butt heads a lot, but I couldn’t agree with him more on this one. Love is where it’s at.
I often get asked “where I’ve landed” regarding my faith. Nowadays, I define my faith by love. Where have I landed? I’ve landed on love.
And, as long as I have breath left to love, I have hope.
Marla Taviano is into books, love, justice, globes, anti-racism, blue, gray, rainbows, and poems. She reads and writes for a living (especially @whitegirllearning), wears her heart on her t-shirts, and is on a mission/quest/journey to live wholefarted (not a typo). She’s the author of unbelieve: poems on the journey to becoming a heretic and jaded: a poetic reckoning with white evangelical christian indoctrination. Marla lives in South Carolina with her four freaking awesome kids. Find out more at marlataviano.com.
Excerpted from Hope in the 2020s: Encouragement for Our Time