Saturday, January 17, 2009


"Tell me about a time," says hope professor Dr. Denise Larsen, "when something was going your way, only you didn't know it." It's a hope cue, an invitation to remember an incident and then to believe that something you don't know about might be going your way at this very moment.

In October of 2006 David and I vacationed in Nashville after attending a storytelling festival in Jonesborough. I recorded the following on this blog.

We were walking toward to Saturday morning farmer’s market in Nashville Tennessee when a loud booming voice drew our attention.  It’s Abraham Lincoln,”
said my husband.  And sure enough, there was Abe, addressing an audience seated on folding chairs in the sun. 

 What a man he is!  Dead a hundred and fifty years and still riveting audiences, still making people stop their journey and sit down to listen! 

 And what was he doing there?  Well, defending himself I would say.  After all, he was speaking to a Tennessee audience.  Tennessee was not on his side
of the American Civil war.  And he was also spreading hope, inspiring it in the adults, enacting it with the children. 

 He told us how firmly he believed that the slaves must be freed, how painful it was to have so many of his wife’s relatives fighting for the south.  He
got out his most famous speech, the Gettysburg Address, and delivered it with such trembling passion that I had to search for a tissue because tears came
to the eyes of this previously disinterested Canadian tourist.

 Suddenly he changed pace and began to enact a message of hope to the children in the audience.  First, he encouraged them to stay in school so that they
might benefit from the best America has to offer.  Then he drew them from the audience.  To Emily he said: Ï hope that, in your lifetime, we will have
the first female president.” To Jim he said: Ï hope that in your lifetime we will elect the first African-American president.”  He also wants an American-Indian
president, but he thinks that might take one more generation.

 When he had finished, we left our chairs and resumed our stroll among the vegetables.  But his message stayed with us, grounded in the past, delivered
in the present, showing a hopeful way for the future. 

I will never forget that sunny Saturday, first because it left me hopeful, and second, because our imaginary abe was talking theoretically, hedging his bets. He was thinking about a far-off future. He was choosing the youngest people in the crowd and promising a black president or a female president some time in their lives. There was no mention that it could happen in just two years. Who knew? Who would have dared to publicly predict such a thing?

Sometimes things are going your way, only you don't know it.

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