Columnist Andrea Ayvazian: Hope and the human connection

  • Andrea Ayvazian FILE PHOTO

Published: 1/21/2023 10:57:26 AM
Modified: 1/21/2023 10:56:58 AM

I was recently interviewed on a local radio program about my reflections on the state of the peace and justice movement in the Valley and around the country. At the end of the show, the host asked: “So Andrea, what keeps you going? What gives you hope?”

Those are good questions, and I should have predicted he would ask me that. But I had not prepared, and so I had to think fast. In the split second I had to formulate a response, I decided to be honest. I knew it might make me unpopular with listeners, but I took a breath and decided to be truthful and transparent.

“What makes you think I have hope?” I responded.

As a member of the clergy, I think I am supposed to be constantly hopeful and armed with a ready answer to that question: What gives you hope? The truth is, I do feel hopeful on some days, but not on others. I have times when I feel hopeful, and stretches when I do not.

But what I have learned, at least in my own life, is that hope is a discipline, a choice. For me, hope is also a luxury.

My ongoing work to create a more just, more sustainable, more equitable, safe world cannot be dependent on my feeling hopeful. My feeling hopeful is irrelevant.

When my sense of hope ebbs, it is still important for me to continue doing the work to help mend, heal, and repair this broken world. My work to fight oppression in all its forms, to overcome climate change, to address the growing threat of nuclear war, and to stop gun violence cannot be predicated on me having a good and hopeful day.

I simply must decide — daily — to continue. And continue. And continue — whether my heart is hopeful or despairing.

Hope is a choice. I sometimes will myself to believe that positive change is possible and is happening. And on my good days I feel that. And I have more good days than bad ones. But I have a healthy respect for the discipline of continuing to do work for the common good even on the days when hope is distant or fading.

The radio host lumped two questions together: What keeps you going? What gives you hope? But I think those two questions are actually quite different, and the difference is important in my life.

I have a ready answer to the question: What keeps you going? That I know in my bones. I keep going because I am sustained by family and the love I receive and the love I give so happily. My granddaughter Fiona, now almost two years old, is a big reason I keep going, with joy in my heart.

I am also sustained in countless ways, profound ways, by friends with whom I gather and share what lays on my heart and listen to them with the ears of my heart — my remarkable circle of friends keeps me going.

Also this community, although quirky and cranky, keeps me going. I believe the Valley has a good soul —we care about the world, we are generous, we are generally thoughtful, creative, and politically engaged.

I am also sustained by my faith. My church community holds me and nurtures my spiritual growth. I am humbled that my church lets me serve them. I tell them often that I love them. And I do.

My sacred text, the Bible, has many passages that give me hope. One of my favorites that speaks to me in a circuitous fashion about hope is found in the Book of Matthew, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful … ”

Those few words speak to my belief that hope is a choice and we need to stay the course. I strive to be a good and faithful servant — regardless of how I am feeling on a particular day.

Each person would have an individual response to the questions asked by the radio host: What keeps you going? What gives you hope?

The variety of responses might include tending one’s garden, being in nature, prayer and meditation, long walks with the dog, and more. My guess is that many people would begin their response to the question what keeps you going with some combination of family, friends, faith, and community. What is significant to me is that the thread that ties all those together is human connection.

When we connect deeply with one another, whether at home, at work, at a café, at a house of worship, at a march, vigil, or rally, our hearts are buoyed up by the feeling that we belong, that we have each other’s back, that life has purpose and promise — and that there is hope. For that, I am grateful, always grateful.

The Rev. Andrea Ayvazian, Ministerial Team, Alden Baptist Church, Springfield, is also founder and director of the Sojourner Truth School for Social Change Leadership.
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