"Hope" is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops -- at all.
Miss Emily Dickenson, the Belle of Amherst, spent a lot of time alone in her room; but Miss Emily knew a thing or two about the human spirit, which is reflected in her poetry. I propose the word for the New Year is "hope." I’m sure Miss Emily would agree heartily.
There are many ways to describe the year just past; but hopeless, helpless, hapless, senseless, and remorseless are a few words that describe some of the people we’ve read about and/or the acts they committed. It’s challenging to think of any positive adjectives at all. The best I can pronounce is: equanimous, referring to folks who kept their sense of stability throughout all the travails visited on us by politicians, terrorists, and weather systems run amok.
It boggles the mind to reflect upon the number of tragedies -- both natural and man-made -- that have swept across the globe in the past 12 months.
Thanks to the immediacy of mass media, we were there when people discovered their homes were burned to the ground by wildfires or swept away in surging floodwaters. We saw the faces of the high school students, running -- with their arms in the air -- from their Colorado high school. And we stood silently for far too many funerals: of world leaders, of military personnel, of police and firefighters, and legions of ordinary citizens who died in a hundred horrid ways. We grieve for them all; but we grieve most profoundly for the innocent children who were fatally harmed by people who were supposed to cherish and protect them.
That is why we must have hope for the new year. We must resolve to improve the world, or at least our little corner of it. There are so many small things each of us can do to improve the quality of life for others around us -- personal things suited for each and every talent or pocketbook. Bringing hope to the eyes of a child is a great way to start. Some can give them warm clothing or food; others can volunteer to spend time with them, reading a story, doing a craft project, or helping with homework. When children have high hopes for themselves, we all benefit. Children are the future of the world, and the older we get, the more we should invest in this precious commodity.
There are also opportunities to help families, and we need look no farther than Habitat for Humanity which provides a basic human need -- shelter. Not only do they build housing, they teach people how to manage their finances to ensure they can keep the house and support their families. In addition to a structure, the volunteers provide hope to many families who had none.
In Berkshire County there are dozens of organizations which provide opportunities for volunteers, from the Red Cross to local churches and fraternal groups. You can drive someone to a medical appointment, knit a shawl, or bake a cake to show someone you care. Recipients cherish the help. Their hope quotient grows and so does ours. The fabric of our communities is knitted more tightly together, and -- like dry yeast when placed in a little warm water with a little sweetness -- keeps growing and expanding.
Giving hope to others helps us to have hope ourselves. As we see that change is possible, we are willing to step up to the plate again. We need look no further than the Boston Red Sox for inspiration this year. We, too, can overcome great obstacles to accomplish great things; but we have to climb up out of our personal dugouts and take the field.
Have a happy, prosperous, and hope-filled New Year!
Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Eagle contributor.