a dried-up tree along a desert trail
I was deeply moved by a news report I heard yesterday regarding the tragic collapse of the garment factory in Bangladesh. Seventeen days ago the many floors of this unsafe "sweatshop" caved in on itself, killing a thousand people in one of the poorest countries in the world. It all seemed so dark.
Yesterday, soldiers had assembled to recover the bodies decaying in the rubble. Vultures were flying overhead, the smell of death was sickening, and in the middle of all this mess, one of the soldiers heard a noise and saw some movement under his feet. He removed some of the debris and, to his amazement, he found that someone was still alive.
A young woman named Reshna had survived seventeen days buried in the collapsed building. The entire country let out a yelp of joy. "It gives us hope in our sadness," said a bystander witnessing this remarkable event.
For me, the story of Reshna under the rubble is indeed a story about "hope."
I sometimes think "hope" is a very misunderstood virtue. Many people think you should have "hope" because, even when things get real bad, God can make them better. I actually don't think this is what "hope" is all about.
I believe that God is aways with us - with us in suffering, darkness, pain, loss and death. I have hope, not because somehow God might take away all the death and pain. No, I have hope because God abides with us even in the times of our greatest darkness and deepest loneliness. I have hope because I know, come what may, I am never abandoned by the God in whom we live and move and have our being.
The story of Reshna living and breathing under the rubble of decay with the vultures waiting to pounce and the acrid smell of death permeating the air, is an icon of "hope." There is no place where God is "not."
Outside my retreat house, there is a half-dead tree along the trail. I think of it as my "hope" tree. As I pass by it every day I whisper to it, "God is with you."
When the poor and needy seek water,
and there is none,
and their tongue is parched with thirst,
I the Lord will answer them.
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
and the dry land springs of water.