Hold fast to dreams

Sister Helen Mueting | September 6, 2017

We live in a time of turmoil, a time when our ideals are challenged, a time when truth and fact are confused with rumor and false news.

It is a time when many of us may be tempted to give up, to sit back and let life go on without us. It is just sometimes too frustrating, too tiring, too depressing to stand up for what we believe in.

As Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine writer from Erie, Pennsylvania, recently wrote in an article for the “National Catholic Reporter,” “There’s a pall hanging over the country these days. … depression infects our spiritual DNA. … What is truth anymore? What is fact now? When is the ‘news’ really news? How can we determine the true from the false, the real from the fake, an authentic report from an adulterated facsimile? What happens to a democracy that cannot trust the integrity of its leaders, the objectivity of its media?”

Proverbs chapter 29, verse 18, says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Are we becoming a country that has lost our vision in terms of morality, social justice, ecological sustainability, love of neighbor, peace, and nonviolence? Have we lost hope in our government, our leaders, our country, one another? Have our fears and prejudice blocked the dreams of young immigrants seeking education in our country?

The late Wangari Maathai, a Nobel Prize winner and graduate of Mount St. Scholastica College, told the story of a hummingbird that kept carrying water in its beak to put out a forest fire. All the other animals stood around helplessly watching. When challenged by the other animals for its “insane” perseverance at a seemingly hopeless task, the hummingbird responded, “I am doing the best I can.”

Doing our best is what we are called to do. We cannot do everything, but we all can do something. And all of us working together can do even more. Hatred and violence have increased in our country. What are we doing individually and communally to be more loving to those around us? Our environment is critically endangered by our consumerism and wastefulness. What are we doing individually and communally to recycle, to downsize, to be less toxic to our environment? Being more environmentally friendly may be inconvenient, but can we take the extra step to ensure a better future for the next generation?

In a recent statement, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said, “We no longer respect nature as a shared gift; instead, we regard it as a private possession. We no longer associate with nature in order to sustain it; instead, we lord over it to support our own constructs. Ignoring God’s plan for creation has ‘tragic and lasting’ consequences on both the human environment and the natural environment. Our human dignity and welfare are deeply connected to our care for the whole creation.”

It is up to each of us individually to do our part to make our world a better place to live in. It is up to each one of us individually and as community groups to hold fast to our dreams. Langston Hughes challenges us to do this when he writes:

“Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.”

Are we willing to be the hummingbird in our world today? Will we not only hold onto our dreams but do all we can to make them happen?