Sunday, April 14, 2013
The other day I got a chain letter. It was a different sort of chain letter, not the familiar kind that you send on without making changes, propelled to send it on by the threat of bad luck to the first chain-breaker. This chain letter changed with every sending. In fact, it was a bit of a tangled chain. It tangled on its weaving journey, shuttling back and forth across the country, traveling across the world and coming back. Its order was tangled too, email being what it is, always showing us the last letter first, previous correspondence chained below. And the topic was a bit tangled, though the theme was clearly hope, hope that became more entangled with love as it traversed the generation gap and returned by a slightly different route. I was intrigued to find myself both at the end of the chain and in the middle. So I untangled it. On March 31, Easter Sunday, Mark rogers from Waterloo Ontario wrote a piece on hope to his colleagues at Habitat for Humanity. This is what he wrote. “I thought I would send out my weekly rant today in order to wish you and those you love a very Happy Easter! Regardless of your religious persuasion, I think just about anyone can appreciate the message and themes of the Easter story, namely: suffering, sacrifice, resurrection, new life. Each year, millions of people around the world rally to celebrate this message because it has such profound significance for everyone of us. For at its core, it’s a story of hope and new beginnings. And who us could live without a sense of hope, or survive this journey of life without second chances? In his best-selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning, former Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp prisoner which led him to discover the importance of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most sordid ones, and thus a reason to continue living. In a heart-wrenching manner, Frankl describes the essential difference that characterizes those that survived these unfathomable circumstances from those that did not. His answer: HOPE! Without a sense hope humans by nature surrender to their circumstances, believing that their present conditions will remain the same no matter what effort is exerted to change them. And yet, with a sense of hope, regardless of how granular that hope may be, individuals can overcome almost unimaginable situations and triumph in the end. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Building Homes, Building Hope! I want you to stop today and truly reflect on that tag line, because it’s more than just our organizational banner. It’s who we are in the world. It’s what we represent to people around the globe. It’s our mission, our meaning, and our message! Far more than simply building shelters for families in need of affordable housing, we offer them a sense of hope, enrichment, optimism, and new beginnings. And when people sense they have even “a chance” for a better life, it’s astonishing what they will do with it! Just ask any of our Habitat partner families! Frankly, I cannot think of a better organization, a better mission, or a better message to be associated with on this Easter Sunday! Building Homes, Building Hope! It may very well be the best message you could share with someone this Easter!” On April 2, a colleague on Vancouver Island responded to that email with a note of her own, sent back to Waterloo. She wrote: “Good morning, Mark. I just wanted to send you a very personal note about your rant this morning. Nine years ago today, my first husband lost his battle with cancer. He had been diagnosed with terminal cancer about two and a half years prior. Things progressed very quickly for us, as he found out that he had cancer in September 2001 and, within about another month, found out that he was terminally ill and had basically no hope of survival. Your message was especially poignant for me today as I remembered that he had meetings with Wendy Edey of the University of Alberta’s Hope Studies Central regarding his situation and how he found hope, even in the midst of his seemingly hopeless situation. We also met with Wendy together once and discussed how we were both able to find hope even in the very grim situation that we found ourselves in (our sons were 10 and 12 at the time of diagnosis). I remember that we just cried and cried and cried. He thinking about the end of his earthly life and missing all the significant events in our sons’ lives and me trying to figure out how I could possibly go on without him and raise our boys on my own. With some thought-provoking questions from Wendy, he admitted that he felt confident and hopeful that his family would be okay and would carry on after his passing and I admitted that, even though I thought it would take a very long time, that I felt hopeful that the boys and I would continue to live our lives and would eventually be able to find comfort in happy memories instead of always being surrounded by the rawness of our grief. This is getting a bit long, so I will wrap it up! In a nutshell, I truly believe that Habitat for Humanity can provide a beacon of hope for families, even when they feel that their situation is utterly hopeless.” Later on April 2, Mark distributed that note to some Habitat colleagues. One of them was Mary in Edmonton, who read it with interest, recognizing my name, knowing that our daughters are friends. . And so, even later on April 2, Mary passed the email along to Kate in south Africa. On April 3, Kate sent the email to Ruth in Guelph Ontario, just a short drive from Waterloo. On April 5, Ruth sent the email to her mother in Edmonton. “Somebody wrote about you,” she said when she sent it. And along that tangled chain, my words of hope work, spoken at a time of great suffering and remembered for 12 years, came back to me.