“God loves you. Jesus is our only hope,” a tall, angular woman said to me as I was walking on First Landing Beach the other day. She had a sweet smile on her face, but her eyes seemed vacant, making no real connection with me. She did not stop to engage me in conversation, to make me feel like she really cared about the state of my soul. Her words sounded hollow, and the first vision that came to my mind was Princess Leia saying, “Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”
What did this woman mean by her words anyway? Jesus is our only hope for what? I would like to have had her elaborate on that, to clarify what hope she felt Jesus would bring to this world through those words of hers. I have been a Christian all my life, but I cringe when people walk by me and utter empty words meant to….to what? Did she think that her words would miraculously change hearts? If I had been someone who was having a bad day or a hard time, I would have felt better if she had taken the time to really look at me and comment how beautiful the ocean was or how lovely the weather, and then to ask me if I was okay like she really cared instead of saying her studied phrase and passing me by.
I’ve had the same best friend since I was thirteen, and in all those years I’ve seen my friend volunteer and get involved, no matter how busy she was. Even while she taught full time and raised two boys, she would give her time to charities and hospitals. Now that she’s retired, she’s busier than ever volunteering at her local library and organizing book sales.
I am fortunate enough to have another best friend whom I met in college. Recently, her precious mother-in-law died, but while her mother-in-law was alive, my friend called or visited her daily for as long as I can remember, taking her shopping or to doctor visits or bringing over food. She was constantly doing things to brighten the day of an elderly woman.
My daughter is one of the busiest women I know. If all she did was take care of her home, two kids, husband, and a dog, her life would be exhausting. But she is always bringing meals to people who are ill or grieving, cleaning someone’s house who is coming home from the hospital, helping out in the classroom, or paying for someone’s medicine who can’t afford it.
My brother and sister-in-law volunteer in river clean-up projects, run or walk to raise money for cancer research, and invite an elderly man to dinner on a regular basis, in addition to numerous other ways they reach out to their community. At my sister’s memorial service a year ago, countless people came up to me to tell me how Karen had made a difference in their lives or in the lives of their children. One parishoner said, “No matter how sick your sister was, even when she could barely walk, if something needed doing, Karen would say, ‘Oh, I can take care of that. Let me do it.’ And it would always get done.”
So, to that woman who offered me that empty sentiment, I say people like my friends, my daughter, my brother and sister-in-law, and my sister are our only hopes for a world in desperate need. And I think Christ would agree with me.