Grace Notes: Finding Hope in the Midst of Despair


“Real hope is found in committing ourselves to vast goals and dreams – dreams such as a world without war and violence, a world where everyone can live in dignity. The problems that face our world are daunting in their depth and complexity. Sometimes it may be hard to see where – or how – to begin. But we cannot be paralyzed with despair. We must each take action toward the goals we have set and in which we believe. Rather than passively accepting things as they are, we must embark on the challenge of creating a new reality. It is in that effort that true, undying hope is to be found.” ~ Daisaku Ikeda, from Hold Hope, Wage Peace, 2005.

I visited the Buddha Land on Wednesday night and, while there, got a much needed infusion of hope.

It’s easy these days to fall into despair.

It’s easy to sit ‘in the outhouse’ known as life and lose your sense of smell.

However, it is important to remember that ‘easy’ is not what we signed up for. Easy is not what builds muscles. Easy doesn’t dismantle fear and hatred.

Easy sits passively on the couch and watches television while the world is burning.

I don’t want easy.

I want lion-hearted. I want strong. I want purposeful. I want something with a spine.

We cannot afford to luxuriate in ‘easy’ any longer.

Let’s grow some teeth!

Let’s lift some weights.

Let’s get back on our feet and walk the path we were born to walk.

We are about half way through the Pluto Return of the United States. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. I don’t say that to scare anyone. I say it because it’s true. You know it. I know it.

So, now what are we going to do about it?


As a country, the US (and its citizens) need to grow up.

Daddy won’t save us. The president won’t save us.

Forces outside of us won’t save us.

The only solution? We will save ourselves by stretching our capacity to grow and transform as individuals, people, and a nation.

If we don’t do this work, we will self-destruct.

We’re seeing it unfold right now. A huge swath of us has surrendered power to the government. A bigger swath has not.

We’re at odds with each other. Our vision of the future is quite different. The far left sees a collaborative future. The alt-right sees isolation, nationalism, and a vilification of ‘the other’ as a means to ‘move forward’ by taking everyone back 50 years.

One way leads to building a future.

The other? No future at all.

A future built on fear and hatred is no future. We must reject it at every turn as completely and irrefutably unacceptable.


What can we do in the face of this despair, this utter hopelessness that is gripping so many of us?

Talk. Reach out. Share stories. Share ideas. Build consensus. Pay attention. Be kind.

I’ve had several students this fall facing terrible personal issues as they try to go to school and, often, work full time. I’ve had several things happen in my life this year that also brought me to my knees.

The one thing that always makes me feel better?

Helping someone else.

So, I’ve dealt with my students with kindness. I’ve cut them some slack. I’ve worked with them so they could catch up if they fell behind.

These are small things. Really.

However, in the long scheme of these young peoples’ lives, they are big. It didn’t take much for me to do this. It just took a little resolve. I chose to see them through the lens of compassion.

I sometimes find it hard to understand why some of the people in the US choose not to exercise compassion.

I also realize that they likely need my compassion more than anyone else.

And that is a tall order at times.

The angry child in me wants to rake my nails down their smug faces and ask them how they’d like it if someone discriminated against them. Only someone in a position of privilege misses the irony of singling out the many to protect the feelings of the few. Only someone who’s never been on the receiving end of hatred can couch hatred as their religious prerogative.

Still. Each one of them possesses a Buddha nature.

They too have the inherent potential inside of them to develop care and compassion.

It may be a shit-encrusted jewel now, but it is a jewel.

Every living thing possesses it. The question is, will we find it? Will we find it in time?


So, where do we start? In the midst of this terrible maelstrom, where do we begin?

For me, everything starts with prayer and writing.

Prayer helps me get quiet. Writing is what allows me to sort my feelings to make sense of the world.

I can’t do a thing without both prayer and the spiritual solace of language.

For you, it may be prayer and teaching a child to read.

It may be working in a soup kitchen.

It may be having a civil conversation with a relative or friend whose views you diametrically oppose.

We can’t get through the coming storms without every single person on board, bailing water and offering prayers. We cannot.

We tackle these challenges, internally. There is nothing out there that can hurt us if we do that. The world’s reflection and reality will shift if we sift through the detritus we carry inside us and clean our house.

It’s time to clean our spiritual house.

It’s time to find a way to live in this world of interconnectedness, consciously, reverently.

If we don’t, we will – in our blindness and hubris – burn this whole world to the ground.


Everyone has a book inside of them. Everyone has a story. Wouldn’t you love to share yours with the world? Get your free writer’s toolkit, packed with tricks and tips to get you started. Just do it. Don’t wait. Don’t die with an untold story inside you.

Copyright 2016  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved


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