I’ve always been a bit of an idealistic person. And I've also always been quite impatient with problem solving in regards to implementing ideals that I think matter. When I was a freshman in college I learned about factory farming of animals, I became a vegetarian and stuck to it for 10 years, at which point I learned about grass-based farming systems where animals live healthy happy lives producing highly nutritious meat, I became a locavore, only eating grass-fed beef, pastured poultry, etc. When I realized I could put solar panels on my house last year, I did it, because I think it’ll make a tiny difference in fighting climate change. At Garfield Farm we plant flowers all over the place with the hopes that we might help native bees survive, that we'll attract hummingbirds and beneficial insects that will help with our pest management. When I hear about the massive problem of climate change, the Pacific Gyre of trash, declining biodiversity all over the planet, I'm attracted to the solutions that can fix all these problems, and I believe we can solve these problems. I am an idealist and I’ve been criticized plenty for that. Last month the week I spent working and praying at Oceti Sakowin Camp outside of the Standing Rock Indian reservation heightened my hope for real solutions in the face of massive social and environmental problems. In blogging about my experience and reflecting on what’s happening there I received a lot of support, and some critique for my idealistic hope that things can change. Here’s a response I got from one gentleman not sympathetic with my hopefulness. He wrote, “Oh, John. This advice is so far from where we are now economically, practically, etc., that I think you are being badly affected by the company you're keeping.” The advice that I had given was that we, as a culture, follow the lead of Native Americans who are calling for environmental stewardship and an end of fossil fuel extraction and combustion as soon as possible.
This Sunday I'll be reflecting on hope as a biblical mandate. If you are person of faith, especially if you're of the Christian persuasion, you can't live faithfully without having hope. Sometimes we all find ourselves in a seemingly hopeless situation in life. We all will find ourselves completely without help at some point. According to what I read in the scriptures it is these times when the hope of the saints lift us up, when our community of faith lifts us up, when others in similar situations come together and show that hope is never lost when there is faith in a loving Creator. Even in the face of massive global problems of injustice, oppression and environmental tipping points we must push forward with bold action because we have hope that our actions will be magnified by the actions of a loving God who cares for all of creation.
There are many small signs that I find hopeful. The fact that the sunset was a beautiful last night as it was at any other time. I find hope in the community of faith that we call the Open Door. I find hope in the restoration we see in our backyard when monarchs and swallowtails find the wildflowers we planted last year. I found hope a couple months ago when we found a five lined skink at Garfield Community Farm, a lizard that scientists haven't seen in Allegheny County in over 100 years. We found one, photographed it and recorded it as no longer extinct in south west Pennsylvania. Let these little victories lead us all toward hope this Advent, hope that will propel us toward greater and greater action for the sake of this beautiful earth and for the sake of the oppressed all over this world.