A hope note
In the summer of 1968, shortly after the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, I lived in the slums of Brooklyn, N.Y. I was an idealistic graduate student, there to help poor kids. On the wall over my mattress on the floor, the former occupant, another bleeding-heart do-gooder, had scribbled these lines: ‘Love is dead. Peace is beyond our reach. There’s no point in pursuing our course. All hope is lost. And we? What’s to become of us? This is the question that plagues my mind and destroys my sleep. We too are lost, with all our hopes, for this wicked world is closing in for the kill. The kill. What is to become of us when we die? We’ll be forgotten along with all the others who were losers.’
Recently, I spent a night in a swanky hotel. A poem on the wall, titled ‘Last Summer in Kentucky,’ was nicely matted and framed: ‘The road down to Harlen’s a rocky old road, and the road up to heaven is steep. The road down to hell is as slick as a grease pit. I’ve traveled on each.’
Most of us have known ‘gloom, despair and agony on me’ and slid down some slippery slopes. Some of our misfortune was outside our control. What we made of it, how we spun it, was our doing.
A nameless Jew scratched the Star of David and this confession on a basement wall in Germany during World War II: ‘I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when I do not feel it. I believe in God even when God is silent.’
What happens to us in life is not the final word. The interpretation we put on it is.