Finding Hope in an Ill and Politically Divided Nation

Sister Emily TeKolste
April 22, 2020

I’m disturbed by the continuing reports of protests against state-level stay-at-home orders. I’m disturbed by the fact that some (few) of my family members seem to be supportive of these or otherwise calling for a reopening of the economy. I’m disturbed by the blatant disregard for reality and for each other that I perceive must be behind a willingness to promote and/or engage in these protests. What is going on in our nation?

Meanwhile, I have friends in the medical field. I have members of my community drastically changing their regular routines, trying to alleviate the strain on our health care systems and protect those who are most vulnerable among us. My social media has shown how close to home it comes: a friend of a friend recently lost her husband of 2 years to COVID-19, becoming a widow at age 31. This courageous woman has sought out local and national news outlets to implore people to stay at home so that nobody else has to endure what she has.

Where along the lines have we lost our ability to engage harsh truths? Where have we lost our ability to care about each other? Where have we lost our ability to sacrifice for the collective good?

I want to understand, but I’m afraid it isn’t understandable. I want to bridge these divides in our nations, but I’m afraid too many of them are un-bridgeable. I’m afraid too many forces are arrayed against truth and love and solidarity. This is not hopeful, but it’s real. It’s honest.

I hold that reality, but I hold it lightly. Because I also refuse to give up, I refuse to let the narrative be dominated by these small groups of people who are getting all this news coverage. I choose, instead, to be buoyed by looking at all the people who are staying at home (and recognizing this act as both privilege and responsibility), who are choosing to donate their stimulus checks because they don’t need them, who are organizing neighborhood mutual aid responses to help people get groceries, who are reaching out to gather and share stories of those who are most impacted, who are having phone meetings with their Senators to lobby for provisions that protect those most in need in this moment. And I hold that, too, as reality.

During this quarantine, I have come back repeatedly to the painful reality that I don’t know what will emerge in our society as we emerge from this pandemic. I see signs of hope and signs of despair. I don’t know, and I can be scared. But I return to this: I know that I choose to come out on the side of hope, love, and community. I will keep working. And I will remind myself that I have community around me doing the same. Thank you for being part of that community.