BOS 04 16 2021 doublesize
This week's much needed rain also brought mist. The air around the house was grey. Looking out at the water, I could barely see a hundred feet. It felt closed, confined. Much like how we feel with another lockdown in place.  

I wonder, how are you getting through this new confinement? Are you feeling closed in, closed down? What gives you hope? What sustains your hope?

These questions started to surface as I heard and saw people talking about their lack of motivation, how discouraged and low energy their felt. I wondered how we support hope in each other.

Then, I watched a Sunday worship service that marked Holy Humour Sunday. The minister said that especially this year, it seemed appropriate to bring laughter to our lives.

I'd never bothered marking that Sunday. I thought it was some new-fangled thing. Turns out, the tradition is ancient. In the fourth century, theologians reflecting on the resurrection of Jesus claimed that God had played a joke on the devil: when Jesus died, the devil thought the devil had won; then God laughed and brought Jesus back to life. A good joke.

A good joke does lift our spirits. Literally, laughter sparks the body to release endorphins, hormones that relieve stress and pain. We need a few good jokes. Just as we thought vaccines would get us on track, the new variants pushed us off the rails.

One of the jokes that was told in the service I watched went like this: A minister realized that the exterior of the church needed painting. They only had one gallon of paint though, so thinned it with water until there was enough to cover the whole building. The night after the church was painted, there was a torrential downpour. All the paint was washed off. The minister prayed and asked God why God had undone all their hard work. Thunder rumbled and a voice said, "Repaint, repaint, and thin no more." The person telling the joke broke into a smile. I laughed.

Looking for hopeful jokes, I came across one that said, "2020 was rough, but here's a little bit of hope for you: h." Ouch. That one hurts a little, but also feels honest. Hope is coming in small doses.

Here is another that is ironic as well as a good pun: "Do you remember when gas station air pumps were free? Now they cost a loonie. Do you know why? Inflation."

I found quite a few puns and jokes that made me smile. There was one about the pie-rates of the Caribbean that I'll let you construct for yourself. It felt good to just smile.

However, looking up jokes felt a bit frivolous so I also went looking for quotations about hope. These did not make me feel hopeful. They felt preachy. As much as I appreciate the work of Thich Nhat Hanh, his words might make a person who can't feel hope feel guilty: "Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today." What if we don't believe tomorrow will be better? Things will be better eventually, but models suggest the peak of Covid cases is at least a week away.

There are lots of quotes about sunrise bringing the light we need, about time healing wounds and making a difference. But in a year when the passage of time has, so far, brought worse illness, I do not feel confident that time alone will improve our situation.

I think that what we need, as well as laughter, is courage. We need courage to keep to the public health rules. We need courage to get the vaccine and to encourage others to get vaccinated. I went to a pharmacy for my jab, and as I sat there, I thought that these people did not take these jobs to be the frontline defense against a pandemic. But here they are figuring out the provincial software and protocols to keep themselves and the people coming to get vaccinated safe. That work takes courage.

So, I think the most hopeful quote I came across comes from Amanda Gorman's inauguration poem. I'll end with her inspiring words:

"The new dawn blooms as we free it
for there is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it,
if only we are brave enough to be it."

Cathy Hird lives on the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway


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