A cover story in last week's Pasadena Weekly chronicles the work of Sam Lundquist, who, inspired by an Urban Plunge Community Service event at Eagle Rock's Christian Assembly Church, decided to begin a project gathering stories from each block of Los Angeles, getting to know people and serve them better with "The Hope Chronicles." With a video camera, audio recorder and journal, Lundquist would approach strangers in all walks of life to ask them one simple question: "What is your hope?" "It is my hope that we would start connecting more and talking more and really understand what it looks like to be neighbor, and be there for them if you can," Lundquist said in the Pasadena Weekly story. What would you say to Lundquist if he approached you? What is your hope?
First of all, I would probably ask Lundquist if he had heard a certain man-on-the-street interview joke, which I dare not repeat here! But then I would tell him that my hope is that all wars would end, and that we wouldn't learn war anymore.
I was very upset when we went to war in Iraq under the previous president, and I continued to be upset when our current president did not end the conflict in Afghanistan. True, there are people in this world who would love to bring down the United States, but by fighting two wars so far away, what kind of message are we sending?
Al Qaeda, and some radical Muslims who may not be a part of Al Qaeda, really believe that the United States is trying to stamp out Islam (in spite of the fact that so many patriotic American Muslims are living here in peace). There is an old saying that continuing the same activity and expecting a different result is a form of insanity.
I believe that if we really think we can destroy all those who wish ill for America, then we are exhibiting a certain form of insanity. I don't understand how endless wars will make us safer. The more we kill, the more they recruit. The dream of the Hebrew prophet Isaiah in Chapter 2, Verse 4— "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks"is still unfulfilled after 2,700 years.
The REV. CLIFFORD L. "SKIP" LINDEMAN is permanent pastor of La Cañada Congregational Church. Reach him at (818) 790-1185. How inspiring and reassuring to read about Sam Lundquist's project with "The Hope Chronicles." What he is achieving is so well in line with those two great commandments given to us by Christ Jesus, to love God, and to love our neighbor as ourselves (see Mark's Gospel, Chapter 12).
The sentiment of respecting and helping others is common to all the major religions, and for good reason. It not only silences self-centered thinking, but also frees us from self-imposed limitations of fear and doubt when we understand that as part of a larger whole we can participate directly in furthering the welfare of others.
Thinking about my own response to "What is your hope?" reveals no single desire, but in terms of enhancing the ways that I may most successfully contribute individually, perhaps my major hope is to attain a higher understanding of God. Why? Hope links us to the workings of God, who is always present, in whom we can trust to resolve every problem.
A growing appreciation of God as always-available and all-powerful unlocks possibilities, resolves deadlocks, removes barriers. It opens us to expressing God's love more around us, wherever our heart reaches out. It dissolves selfishness, hate and fear. Understanding that we have a spiritual relationship with God that directs our being, and is always active, is essentially a form of prayer that guides us.
Mary Baker Eddy wrote in "Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures": "The test of all prayer lies in the answer to [this question]: Do we love our neighbor better because of this asking? If selfishness has given place to kindness, we shall regard our neighbor unselfishly, and bless them that curse us." Thus we can expect hope to be realized in Lundquist's definition of the word, "What we want to happen and what we know can happen somehow."
When we see the grand relationship of God to mankind, then the possibilities become evident, and we can go forward where hope extends to faith, trust and fruition.
GRAHAM BOTHWELL is first reader at First Church of Christ, Scientist, in La Canada. Reach him at (818) 790-3493.
In these times of economic, political and social turmoil, the idea of someone walking through Los Angeles neighborhoods and asking "What is your hope?" is a novel and refreshing idea.
Indeed, it is a positive view that is welcome. In that regard, my answer to the question being asked is twofold.
First, for my children, I hope that the world that they and their children will experience will be one that has less turmoil and unrest, and that addresses, in a constructive manner, some of the major issues confronting us today, including economic chaos, the environment, standards of living (including health care) and terrorism.
Second, my hope for my children and their children is that they continue to embrace the spiritual safety found in Jesus Christ. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ — real faith, whole-souled and unshakable — is a marvelous power for change. It can be a causative force through which miracles are wrought, and it can be a source of inner strength through which we find peace, comfort and the courage to cope.
May we remember the counsel of the apostle Paul when he taught that faith, hope and charity (See 1 Corinthians 13:13) form a foundation upon which we can build the structure of our lives. Together they give us a base of support like the legs of a three-legged stool.
Each principle is significant within itself, but each also plays an important supporting role.
Each is incomplete without the others.
Hope helps faith develop.
Hope grows out of faith and gives meaning and purpose to all that we do. The principles of faith and hope, working together, cause us to be more charitable, and it is charity that is the greatest of all.
RICK CALLISTER is a member of the La Cañada II Ward of the La Crescenta Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Reach him at (213) 412-2804.
I hope to finish well.
I think most people would be taken aback having to spontaneously answer such a question, boiling down their many aspirations into one ultimate. I hope to win the Lotto; I hope to not get cancer; I hope to go to heaven. Many are the hopes of people, and editing them into an on-the-spot pronouncement seems almost impossible. Perhaps most people are deep thinkers who ponder the issue meticulously, just waiting for the opportunity to express their well-thought response for some videotaped query. I doubt it.
We all have aspirations, desires and wishes for a better life and community, but if unexpectedly cornered, would we be able to accurately articulate our unadulterated hope? Given the question in advance, I can answer that "I hope to finish well," meaning, I hope to live in such a way that God would think me faithful to his plan, that I lived the message I preached, and that I loved God first, neighbor second and everything else however else.
Churches have previously filmed probing questions like "The Hope Chronicles," but usually in terms of salvation and the afterlife. We air such clips to stimulate parishioner thought regarding personal connection to the creator. Everyone has a relationship with God, but we believe only the Christian has a positive one. Why's that? Because the point of Jesus' coming was to save mankind from sin, falsehood and damnation. To deny his rescue is to live in hopelessness. And our hope is not some big wish that we "hope" comes true; it is a trust that Christ paid for our failures on the cross, sufficiently secured our everlasting membership into God's family and guaranteed that our hope is only a yet-to-be-realized eventuality.
In the meantime, I hope to finish well.
The REV. BRYAN GRIEM is pastor of Montrose Community Church. Reach him at (818) 249-0483.
Every one of us has things that we want very much in life. Most of us probably want to win the lottery, and many people yearn to travel the world to visit Paris, London, Venice and other wonderful places. Many of us desire better relationships with those we love. And of course, there is that slightly cliched but often expressed longing for "world peace."
Some of the above items are wishes, while others represent sincere hopes. A "wish" usually refers to an improbable event — akin to "wishful thinking" — while "hope" is generally an expression used when something seems possible and within reach. I may wish to win the lottery, but I have true hope that I can develop a better relationship with my loved ones. The former is out of my control; the latter is very much within my power.
So what is my hope? That people around the globe will look at world peace as an achievable, hopeful endeavor instead of a mere wishful thought. Over the course of history, humanity has witnessed far too much bloodshed, pain and suffering. The usual response to all of this tragedy is that global harmony is nothing more than a fantasy or pipe dream, and that realistically we must accept the status quo of war and belligerence. However, I believe that we owe it to ourselves — and our children — to never accept this sad situation as a permanent condition.
Every human being in every nation must realize that it is within his or her power to make the world a better place. It can start with telling your family members how much you love them, or making up with that co-worker with whom you had an argument. Perhaps you can lend a helping hand to a total stranger, or take steps to brighten your community. These little acts of goodness and kindness can ultimately change the world and create a more hospitable environment for us all. These concrete actions can turn a hope into a reality.
RABBI SIMCHA BACKMAN is spiritual leader of Chabad of Glendale and the Foothills. Reach him at (818) 240-2750.
My hope is for a world that hears and heeds the message and the spirit of the Great Commandment: Love God with your whole heart and soul and mind; love your neighbor as yourself. In other words, as Jesus said on the night before he died: Love one another as I have loved you. It is the fullness of the message of his ministry and became the ultimate blueprint for carrying our his ministry in his passion, death and resurrection.
He — who as the only one who had the right to be — was never judgmental. With every sinner he encountered during his public life his reaction was always the same: Go, sin no more. He never denied the sinfulness, but he never did anything but love the sinner.
If we learn how to love one another as he does, we will find the ultimate source of happiness and healing. Much of the evil that infests the world is because of hate. Hating your brother or sister destroys one's spirit and can even affect one's physical well being.
Refusal of forgiveness, which is an attribute of hate, is much more devastating to the subject of the refusal than to the object. It is life-destroying. The experience of forgiveness frees one's spirit and fills one with a new surge of life. And that surge is always the same; it is an experience of love.
If we love one another as Christ loves us, our entire world would be renewed, refreshed and become once again the pristine gift that it was meant to be by the creator from the beginning. There would be no negatives, but only positives. We would be striving for the perfection that Jesus asked of us when he said: Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.
The REV. RICHARD ALBARANO is pastor of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Burbank. Reach him at (818) 504-4400.
My greatest hope is that we learn to soften the hard edges of fear in our personal lives — as well as in our collective life (and that we do so sooner, rather than later).
While fear can serve us well, inspiring caution in situations proven to be dangerous, it also tends to overshadow the life-affirming and empowering qualities of love and faith.
Some of the fears through which we are burdened and which manifest in the discord and violence of racism, sexism, homophobia and poverty — in degradation of the environment around us and the spirit within us — include fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of difference, fear of insufficiency, fear of our potential as human beings and the responsibility that implies.
When these fears take hold, there is little room for love and compassion. There is little room for generosity, gratitude, forgiveness and creativity. When fear takes hold, awe and reverence wither away, joy crumbles, and lonely desperation unfurls. But, where love abides, all things are possible!
A further hope is that all our glittering hopes not gather dust, as we "await" their fulfillment. Rather, that we give our lives to their manifestation. Often that process is begun by revealing our highest vision to one another, as Lundquist is encouraging folks to do.
The REV. STEFANIE ETZBACH-DALE is minister of Unitarian Universalist Church of Verdugo Hills in La Crescenta. Reach her at (818) 248-3954.
Sam Lundquist's inspiration to gather people's ideas of "hope" in neighborhoods in Los Angeles is an example of the type of reciprocating care and relationships God intended for humans to have — yet is often overlooked in this day and age.
Lundquist decided to collect stories from people asking the question: "What is your hope?" As I reflect upon this course of action to connect with people, I believe this beautifully models God's design for us to care about and know one another in community.
What would I personally say if Lundquist approached me? I would explain my thoughts on how humans are born into a world where they simultaneously receive hurt and healing throughout their life span. My hope would be that education leading to a world view, acknowledging the behaviors and patterns that lead people to damage others, could prevent the need for professional help in healing — or cleaning up — these emotional wounds.
Just as previous generations did not diagnose certain psychopathologies, so this generation may be a generation away from being educated on the hurt they cause children, spouses, parents and friends by ignorant or unhealthy choices.
It may be wishful thinking, but if there was wide-span education out there readily available for mankind as a whole, could the patterns of abuse, neglect and withdrawal prevent the pathology of future generations? It is a hope — not necessarily something I suppose will actually occur. With that said, perhaps us even writing today can make a minute dent of recognition in our communities and families that it takes straightforward education and the ability to retain that information — then practice it — to at least diminish the hurt we cause others.
The REV. KIMBERLIE ZAKARIAN is a marriage and family therapist at La Vie Counseling Center in Pasadena. Reach her at (626) 351-9616, Ext. 181, or by e-mail at email@example.com.