In times of despair, hold on to the precious principle of hope

Published: Friday, April 19 2013 4:20 p.m. MDT

America is mourning. Again.

More senseless violence has occurred. More innocent lives have been lost. More media time has been devoted to asking questions for which there are no answers: Why? What provokes such actions? How can we explain it? When will it end?

I don't know about you, but to me it seems as if the guns and bombs are sounding with increasing frequency and ferocity. This time it's Boston. Before that it was Newtown. And before that, Aurora. Next time it'll be … where? My hometown? Yours?

The scariest thing about this wave of violence that is sweeping across America is that there's no way to predict where blood will next be shed. The only thing that seems to be certain is that more blood will be shed. Maybe it will be a market. Or a church. Or a drugstore. But somewhere, someone will pull out a gun or set off a bomb, and lives will be lost.

And America will be mourning. Again.

I'm not sure what the answer is. I'm not even sure what the question is. Some say the issue is gun control. Others think it has more to do with mental illness. Still others think it is another evidence of the total breakdown of the American family. And then there are those who trace this crisis to elementary school bullies, high school cliques and other adolescent evidences of man's ongoing inhumanity to man.

It could be that one of those positions is correct. Or it could be that none of them is. More likely it's a combination of everything — too many guns, too little attention to mental health, too much stress on the family from within and without and not enough human kindness. The pace of life is picking up, and many lives are careening out of control. The world is filled with violence, uncertainty, anger and doubt. There's every reason to fear, and very little reason for hope.

And yet, we have to keep hoping.

We have to keep believing there are answers that we just haven't found yet. Hope is what gives us the courage to keep trying even when it appears that nothing that we try makes a difference. Because without hope, we resign ourselves to despair. And in despair, we quit trying. And nobody ever won anything by quitting.

Years ago, my father and I sat together watching our team play in a college football bowl game. OK, maybe "play" isn't the right word. The other team was playing great, and having a great time. Our team was pretty much … not. With just minutes left in the fourth quarter our team was down by 20 — and to tell the truth, the game wasn't really that close. After watching our team be dominated for three quarters plus, there was no reason to believe that anything would change. And so I gave up — which is a nice way of saying I slammed my fist into the couch and said something unprintable.

Thankfully, our team hadn't lost hope. And neither had Dad.

"Don't worry," he said. "We've got 'em right where we want 'em!"

As if on cue, our team scored on a touchdown pass. Then they recovered an onside kick and scored again. Then they blocked a punt and scored the winning touchdown on a "Hail Mary" pass as time expired. It was a miracle. I was screaming joyfully at the improbable, unlikely, almost impossible turn of events. But Dad just laughed.

"I told you!" he said. "We had 'em right where we wanted 'em!"

Of course, the situation we're facing in our violent world is a lot more complicated than a football game, and the stakes are infinitely higher. But the guiding principle is the same: the precious principle of hope. No matter how improbable the situation, no matter how unlikely the scenario for success, almost impossible or not, there's always hope. We have to believe that. And then we have to act on that belief by continuing our search for answers and solutions to whatever it is that is wrong with our society that prompts some of us to such random and despicable brutality. Because the way I see it, we have the world right where we want it.

Which could very well mean that hopefully — or full of hope — the day will come when America won't be mourning. Again.

To read more by Joseph B. Walker, please go to www.josephbwalker.com.

Email: jwalker@desnews.com

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