Choosing Hope

There are many reasons to be depressed right now. Many causes to be upset over. And I’ll admit that for the past few weeks, I’ve been pretty down. I’m still not upbeat about a lot of things, to be honest. But I came to the conclusion over the weekend that none of those lines of thought were productive at all. I could sit around feeling like the world was falling down around me, or I could make the conscious choice to be hopeful instead. And after living in the doldrums for the last while, the choice was a fairly easy one to make.

There are many reasons to be hopeful. For one, things have looked grim in life many times before in the past, and the world got through them. World Wars, global pandemics, famines, and more. It’s important to remember that every night has it’s dawn.

One of the things that brought this into focus for me most clearly was a talk I listened to over the weekend. The past two days was General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 10 hours of speeches focused on religious topics. Let me be clear: 10 hours of talks in two days is . . . a lot of talks. Have I been known to nod off now and then? Yes. Yes, I have. But in a typical year, I look forward to conference weekend as a way to recharge my batteries. Some nice quiet time to think about what’s really important, reevaluate my priorities, and get ready to face the crazy again once it’s over.

This time, there wasn’t much crazy I needed to gear up for, schedule-wise. In many ways, I wasn’t too jazzed about the idea of spending 10 more hours in front of a screen, when that’s what my life has turned into lately. But the talks were on point, and I still had an uplifting time.

One stood out to me especially, however. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk on Hope could and should apply to just about any religious person, or at least any Christian. It’s 17 minutes long, so not a quick watch, but if you’re looking for something spiritually nourishing today, as I was yesterday, I can think of nothing better than watching it, especially the last half. (Sadly, embeds aren’t working yet.)

One quote stood out in particular to me:

When we have conquered it — and we will — may we be equally committed to freeing the world from the virus of hunger and freeing neighborhoods and nations from the virus of poverty. May we hope for schools where students are taught — not terrified they will be shot — and for the gift of personal dignity for every child of God, unmarred by any form of racial, ethnic, or religious prejudice.

For the past few weeks, it’s felt like all of my attention (or at least the bulk of it) has been focused on this pandemic and what I might do to prepare for it and the chaos it seems to be leaving in its wake. This talk was the first real time I’ve collected myself and reminded myself that there will be an “after.” I don’t mean to say I’ve been frantic, waiting for the world to end. Rather, I’ve been wholly distracted, focused on what people are (or aren’t) doing to get through this.

When I was in Utah, I lived in Lindon for a while. Denisa and I moved into the apartment under tentative circumstances. We were in my aunt and uncle’s basement, but we understood we might need to leave it at some point in the future, since it might be needed for other uses. We were grateful to have the place to stay at such a great rate, but we never really put down roots. In some ways, it felt like the Great Pirate Roberts.

We ended up living there for years, and I really feel like one of the bigger mistakes I made during that time was treating that place like a layover as opposed to a home. When you decide to commit to a place and make it yours, you’re able to really dig in and make lasting friendships. You plan for the future, and those plans cement you in the present in a way that you can’t really get through another path.

The past few weeks, I’ve felt tentative again. Living day to day. It felt like so much could change at any moment, so why should I bother trying to make any plans?

I had lost hope.

I’m going to try to correct that now. Yes, the future is still uncertain. We can’t know what track the disease will take, or what it will do to our economy. Things may change at any moment, but that doesn’t mean I need to stop making plans. There will be other things to focus on in the days, months, and years ahead. The problems of yesterday will be back, and I for one would much rather be dealing with simple political conundrums, as opposed to political conundrums AND COVID-19.

Anyway, that’s the shift in mindset I’m trying to make right now. It’s helping me, and I hope it might help some of you. Plan for the future, because there’s definitely going to be one, people. Even if sometimes it feels like we’re fully occupied with our present worries.

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