Feeding Our Hope

“Let’s play office!” she said. I smiled and nodded at the seven year old girl and her little sister. We were waiting in an empty office at a rectory in Manhattan while their mother was in a meeting. As the game began, the girls collected piles of scrap paper, highlighters and pads of sticky notes. I was instructed to wait in a chair in the corner. When it was my “turn” I was presented with a pile of “paper-work”, scrawled with childish drawings and backwards letters. I was asked for my name and birth-date and then sent “next door” where I was given more paperwork as I listened to the tiny little bureaucrat sigh about her struggles as a single mother. When I was told to “come back tomorrow”, I thought my heart might break. What a tragedy, I thought, that these little girls’ imaginations were filled with welfare offices and homeless shelters instead of ballrooms and castles.

But just when I was ready to cry, I remembered earlier in the day when we had driven down from the Bronx on the Westside Highway. As the Hudson River came into view for the first time, the childish chatter in the backseat suddenly hushed. “Mommy – the water!” How could I fear for these little hearts that could still wonder at a glint of sunshine on the water surrounded by asphalt and exhaust fumes, a scene that thousands of motorists passed by everyday without a second glance?

The marvel of a child is still bright even when there is little, in the words of Anne of Green Gables, “scope for the imagination”.  Like all children they loved to play “grown-up”, to dream of their future when they would finally enter the adult world. Perhaps their dreams seemed heartbreaking to me, but they thrilled their hearts like the gleam of the sunlight on the river. But, O what could they dream of if their minds were filled with goodness and beauty instead of misery and deprivation?

Perhaps we can learn something from these children, to imagine our own future when we’ll be “all grown-up.” Only we won’t be waiting in a welfare office; we’ll be gazing on the Face of God, surrounded by glory in our heavenly homeland. But in the midst of the frightening headlines and daily drudgery which tempt us to hopelessness, it’s not always easy to make contact with our Divine destiny. If we want to exercise the virtue of hope, it’s going to take a little “scope for the imagination”.

St. Paul says, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”(Phil 4:8) And yet how often do we think instead on the baseness, cruelty, perverseness, and ugliness which assault us in our daily life. What images do we take in on our daily commute – the glint of sunshine on the water or the disturbing billboard advertising the newest T.V. show? Perhaps we cannot always avoid the realities of our fallen world, and there is much among the stories, images, and music which daily seek our attention that only distort our minds. But, there are many opportunities to feed our imaginations with goodness and beauty which we can find if we only seek them out.

Lord, we ask you to help turn away from the evil and ugliness that seek to steal our attention. We beg you to fill our minds which the things that will lead us to our true goal. May we, like little children, dream of that day when we will become who we were we made to be, the glorious sons and daughters of God.  Amen.