Last week I took a shift at the Alaska Peace Center booth at the Tanana Valley Fair. I smiled and said hello to people as they passed, but 9 out of 10 did not acknowledge my greeting even in a minimal way, e.g., making eye contact or nodding, and some seemed downright hostile. But I did have a couple of interesting conversations. One was with a man who stood in front of our booth, shook his head, and said, “I just don’t believe peace is possible.” I think my response was something like. “I can’t give up hope that it is.” We exchanged a few more words, and after he passed I thought of all the cool things I could have said about hope. I could have given him my reasons for believing that peace is possible, based on examples of nations, groups, and individuals who have maintained a stance of non-violence in the face of a violent world. More importantly perhaps, I could have suggested some actions that we can take to work toward peaceful resolutions rather than war.
For me, hope is an attitude, related to faith. I have been ridiculed for this attitude at various times in my life, acquiring the title Dr. Hope in relation to my belief in indigenous language revitalization when the director of the Alaska Native Language Center was preaching a message of doom. Yes, the number of languages spoken in the world today is drastically decreasing, and yes, the tendency is for smaller indigenous languages to die out in the face of urbanization, education, and commerce using a more widely spoken language such as English or Spanish. But, just as there are shining examples of groups of people choosing non violence over war, there are examples of dedicated people working toward maintaining at least some functions for their ancestral languages.
Another recent example of hope/faith, where I was the one who doubted, was my Kenyan F/friends who made it through seemingly impossible odds to attend a meeting of the United Society of Friends Women and Quaker Men International (held by Friends United Meeting) and then visit us in Alaska. Alaskan Friends generously donated to make it financially possible, but there were hurdles with getting the money to them (neither Western Union nor the bank would send money to Kenya), getting their visas in time, registering after the deadline, and arranging the travel. At each of these points, I was ready to give up and return the donations, but Emily says she kept praying. She knew God would find a way for them to get here. When they finally arrived in Alaska we celebrated the miracle.
Finally, I am inspired by a quote from George Fox (1676):
Hold fast the hope
which anchors the soul,
which is sure and steadfast,
that you may float above the world’s sea.
For your anchor holds sure and steadfast in the bottom,
let the winds, storms and raging waves rise never so high.
And your Star is fixed,
by which you may steer
to the eternal land of rest and Commonwealth of God.