Updated: Apr 28, 2021
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.
Hope has been in short supply in the last few months. Ever since that rabid little virus jumped from a Chinese pangolin onto some unsuspecting market trader and began reproducing itself at breakneck speed, (it did have continents to conquer) the world has found it hard to cling to hope. We’ve clapped our NHS - of course we have, stuck teddies and rainbows in the windows, eaten out to help out, home-schooled bored children, isolated and social-distanced until we are all so very weary - but still the numbers of that grim daily death toll have risen. I was brought up to believe that God would have it all in hand, but much as I didn’t want to, I began to wonder if he was asleep on the job or had downed tools for a little holiday somewhere in the sun and left a ‘Back Soon’ sign as we knocked hopefully on heavens’ door.
But now we have the vaccine. Now we have the promise of a little vial of pure miracle to be injected into our arm which will see this blighter off. Or, (let’s not be too hasty) give us the promise of something approaching a normal life by this time next year. And our sense of perspective has so shifted, that that feels like progress. If you’d told me at the end of February this year that I would consider eighteen months of life on hold as a win – I would have thought I’d teleported into a parallel universe where the surreal is now normal and everyone accepted it. Which I have.
Like everyone, I long for hope right now. I long for things to be different. I miss – oh how I miss my little grandchildren. Especially my two-year-old grand-daughter who lives in The Netherlands. She was on FaceTime the other day showcasing her Thomas the Tank sticker book and banged a sticker over Thomas’s mouth saying assertively ‘Mask!’ At least I cottoned onto that. Going to daycare in Holland means she is growing up bilingual so I run the real risk of not understanding her as she effortlessly morphs in toddler mode between Dutch and English. Even my daughter was a tad concerned the other day when she wandered around the house shouting what sounded like a fruity English expletive, until she realised she was attempting the Dutch for ‘giraffe.’
How I miss them! And I miss a cheeky coffee and a natter with mates. I miss church services where we could take communion without what feels like a hose down before we touch anything. I miss singing in my choir and being able to stand next to someone who can pitch that awkward F sharp. I miss practices with my recorder group, not thinking twice about decorating the air with potentially lethal microbes as I blow through my instrument.
I miss life.
Zoom is a pale imitation of the real thing and although my mentor, Anne Lamott, said write about all you can see through a one-inch picture frame, I don’t think she meant that was all we would ever see. And I am so very fortunate. I have a house, a reliable income and a husband who brings me a cup of tea in bed every morning, deals with any spider invasions and is adept at helping me to cope with my Worry List Top Ten. I grew up hollering the chorus ‘Count your blessings name them one by one!’ and for once, I can’t argue with that.
But now the vaccine. Part of me wants to jump up and down for joy and dance around the kitchen to ‘We are the Champions’ whilst another part which has waited for Armageddon since the age of three still doesn’t quite bring herself to believe it.
Now I don’t want to deliver a sermon. I’ve never seen myself in a pulpit. I’m no good at heights and would soon get dizzy at being on such a pedestal. But at the risk of sounding preachy, I will say that we all need hope. And for me, holding on to hope also means holding on to the conviction that somehow, somewhere in all this fear and panic and distress and chaos, there is a loving Creator who wants to see us through it. And if I believe that, then I also believe that I can talk to him and ask him to help us sort this lot out. The Third Order says that they ‘recognise the power of intercessory prayer’ and I guess Covid is keeping a few of them on their knees at the moment.
My priest-friend told me once that she thought prayer was about telling God what you would like to happen rather than commanding or expecting him to deliver. Well – I would like a world not paralysed by Covid. I would like a world where we can hug and hold our old and our young. I would like a world where we don’t need foodbanks. I would like a world where people are not discriminated against for any reason at all. I would like a just world, a loving world, a compassionate and tolerant world where resources are fairly distributed and every human being is valued for who they are.
And I would like a vaccine very soon. This is my prayer. This is my hope.
And I want this hope, ‘the thing with feathers’ to sing and sing and sing in my soul.
And never stop at all.