KAUFMANN: Give the gift of hope

We all need a sign that life is going to get better. A few glimmers of hope are peeking over the horizon. This month, the FDA is scheduled to review potential COVID-19 vaccines and decide whether to grant emergency use authorizations. At the time of this writing, the federal government is wrangling over the details of another stimulus bill.

Vaccination and economic relief both sound excellent, but they take time, and many of us are tired of waiting. We need hope to arrive now.

I recently read the phrase “living hope,” and its power struck me. Instead of sitting back and passively wishing for change, what if we were active participants in improving lives today?

When I was a child, we lost all our household goods to a tragedy. I remember my mother spending vouchers at the local Salvation Army, carefully choosing pans, utensils and dishes from among their shelves of used items.

That day, hope took the rounded shape of pots and plates.

There are many tangible shapes that hope takes: food, clothing, and gifts for children, among others. If we are blessed with a good income, we can donate money to local charitable organizations like the Salvation Army. We can buy a holiday value basket from Shelton’s Farm Market to be delivered to a local family in need.

Even if we don’t have extra money, we could clean out our closets and give away gently used items. We could make a meal for a busy healthcare worker or a struggling single parent, with no strings attached and no need for repayment.

Living hope challenge #1: Provide a physical gift of hope this season to someone other than immediate friends and family.

Emotional and social hope is also a gift we can offer. This pandemic has isolated many of us, heightening feelings of loneliness. We can contact someone who feels alone and spend time conversing together. Perhaps we can even schedule a socially-distanced walk for a warmer winter day.

Living hope challenge #2: Reach out to someone who is hungry for connection and spend some time listening.

I used to think this time of year was the season of giving, but I think we can go a level deeper: this is the season of hope. Think about the different holidays. Christmas celebrates not just the gift of one baby, but the hope of new life for all people. Hanukkah commemorates the miracle of holy lamp oil lasting not just one, but eight days. And the Winter Solstice marks not just the longest night of the year, but also the turning point after which all the days get longer.

The message of each of these holidays is very similar: even though the world is full of darkness, the light of hope has arrived. We see this symbolism in the festive twinkling lights on our trees and throughout our communities.

Instead of waiting for special dates on the calendar or decisions from the national government, we can take up the above challenges and put flesh to the idea of hope this holiday season. Let’s make someone’s life better, today.

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