A hope note
Matthew Henry, famous Presbyterian minister in the British Isles three centuries ago, got mugged and robbed. That night he recorded this prayer of thanksgiving in his journal: ‘I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.’
Hope doesn’t deny facts. Hope construes the facts, puts them in their place, in perspective.
Patricia Neal, Academy-award winning actress, in her 80s got her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her life has had some great setbacks: the death of her oldest child at an early age, three massive strokes, a car accident that almost killed her, a philandering husband and a divorce. When she got her star, she said: ‘In the past year, I received two very good parts: a new shoulder and a new knee. They both are working beautifully. I am an actress, and I will take any good part as long as I can stand up. And when I can no longer do that, I will take them lying down.’
Neal illustrates how hope has a touch of defiance, a Snoopy-like ‘curse you, Red Baron’ spit and grit in it. And hope, she also illustrates, uses humor, to laugh in spite of, and to laugh at, the facts.
Some of the facts, especially economic ones, at Thanksgiving season this year are grim. But as Matthew Henry and Patricia Neal can teach us, facts don’t have the last word. Spiritual realities, like hope and gratitude, can tweak and trump the facts. ‘In every winter heart,’ Kahlil Gibran wrote, ‘there is a quivering spring.’