Peddlers of hope


Years ago, a college president nearing retirement was asked to describe his work. He answered, “I am a peddler of hope.”

After 12 years of service as a college president, I resonate with that view. Hope is woven into the very fabric of a college campus. It is hope rooted in the confidence that education makes a difference, for the students, and for the society in which they will live and work. On a traditional undergraduate campus like Ohio Wesleyan, it is hope rooted in the confidence that students who arrive in late adolescence at the age of 18, often timid and uncertain, will depart four years later having blossomed into adulthood, brimming with confidence, and prepared to make a difference in all aspects of their lives. It is the hope that brings faculty and staff to campus every day, confident that the work they do has meaning and value far beyond the walls of the classroom and the boundaries of the campus. We are peddlers of hope.

In a time of a pandemic, our society longs for peddlers of hope.

We long to hear leaders voice their confidence in the power of the human spirit to hold us together when an invisible virus threatens our lives and the lives of our institutions.

We long to hear leaders voice their confidence in the role science can play in understanding the virus and in doing the hard work required to identify a vaccine and create a cure, recognizing that by their very nature, scientists are peddlers of hope.

We long to hear leaders express their appreciation for the role of the arts in soothing broken spirits and providing a balm that offers the gift of hope.

We long to hear leaders speak with the confidence to set aside their own fears and self-interests, and lead from a place of empathy, compassion and civility, virtues grounded in the power of hope.

In a time of a pandemic, our society longs for peddlers of hope.

Peddlers of hope do not deny the realities of the moment. They do not gloss over danger or threat. They do not pretend that wicked problems can be solved quickly and simply. They do not advocate untested remedies. No, peddlers of hope are realists. Nevertheless, in their realism, they take the long view, with hope.

I have seen many reasons for hope during this pandemic. I have seen people caring for one another in powerful ways, including but not limited to health care workers and first responders who put their lives on the line every day. I have seen individuals and organizations make immediate and dramatic changes in order to fulfill their missions and serve those in need. Ten weeks ago, who would have imagined that virtually all of American higher education would be moved online in a matter of days! It happened, and it happened well. This gives me hope.

On a beautiful spring day last weekend, Melissa and I enjoyed a long walk through the northwest neighborhood. We saw friends working planting gardens, transitioning their lawns from the dead of winter toward the life of summer. Gardening is a sign of hope.

Our faith traditions are grounded in the virtue of hope. Through prayer and spiritual discipline, through the rituals of worship and shared religious practices, we draw on the reservoir of faith that produces resilience and hope.

The prophet, Zechariah, wrote: “Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.”

The author of Hebrews wrote: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Today, I invite you to claim, and proclaim, the promise of hope in your life. In the time of a pandemic, we long for peddlers of hope.

20150720-20150721 Mindpower Photoshoot Mindpower Photoshoot

By Rock Jones

Your Pastor Speaks

Rock Jones is president of Ohio Wesleyan University and an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church.

No posts to display