February 9, 2009

Commentary: Hope prevails, despite dark economic times

Amber Arellano/ The Detroit News
Commentary: Hope prevails, despite dark economic times

In just two years, Beverly Rose has lost more than many Americans do in a lifetime.

Like so many Metro Detroiters, her losses began with the auto industry’s collapse. She lost one job at an auto supplier just weeks before Christmas. Her next firm went bankrupt within months of her arrival.

When her savings ran out, she lost her Troy home. Then she lost her marriage.

Yet, when I call my dear friend Bev on any given morning, she answers with a strong, cheerful voice, “Good morning!”

“How are you doing on this beautiful day?” she announces as if she is the leader of a high school band who is marching courageously into an unknown future.

Bev gives me hope every time I talk with her. Perhaps you, like me, have needed infusions of hope lately.

We’re hardly alone.

Reader’s Digest and Guideposts magazines announced recently they will increase their positive stories during this gloomy economic era.
Inspiration for today

The magazines’ announcements made me come full circle to a column I did recently about a slogan for Michigan. People are yearning for hope as we work through our painful economic transition, I said, inviting people to send in their suggestions for slogans and inspirations.

The most common response: our new President Barack Obama.

“Obama!” wrote reader Ed. “That’s a no-brainer.”

Cynthee wrote: “Michigan: change now!”

Other readers said they liked the story but they were stumped for ideas. One office of several women said they would brainstorm ideas — but never got back to me.

They’re busy, I’m sure, as we all are today. So let me offer up some of my own.

My friend Bev is just one of them. When I asked her how she remains upbeat as she searches for a job and develops a new life, she replied: “By the grace of God.”

Another inspiration for me: metro Detroiters.

We are giving more even as our families’ needs grow. We are donating record amounts of money to local shelters and food banks. Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan, for example, recently has witnessed an unprecedented level of donations.

Gleaners came into my life in December. I was feeling down. Congress was beating up on the Detroit Three automakers and their workers, including my own hard-working relatives. The country seemed impervious to our region’s pain.

As I drove home from work along I-94 that dark night, a slogan began forming in my head: “Action is the antidote to despair.” (If I read this somewhere years ago and forgot who wrote it, please remind me.)

That night, my husband and I planned a spontaneous fundraiser to benefit Gleaner’s. We held it in December. Friends and friends of friends came. We drank martinis and chatted and raised more than $2,500. It taught us the power of our own social networks, our own ability to change things and serve others regardless of our political leaders or Wall Street.

That evening continues to produce unexpected blossoms.
Practicing hope

One woman I met at the benefit decided she would collect warm hats and gloves for the newly homeless. She’s just one person who continues to drop off food and clothing donations to our house.

Meanwhile, one of my colleagues, Danielle Kaltz, has been helping me unload and hand out garbage bags of donations. She piles the cans of ravioli and down blankets into her jeep and ventures into downtown Detroit’s crannies — sewers, underpasses, man-made caves — to directly deliver food to men who often have given up on society — and vice versa.

She reminds me of a modern day Jane Adams, the turn-of-the-century social worker who braved Chicago’s tenements to serve the most vulnerable.

She has new stories of “the guys,” as she calls them, everyday. Her stories are a constant stream of hope flowing in my office, like sunlight streaming in.

I’ve been finding hope online, too. Spirituality & Practice (check it out at: http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/practices/practices.php?id=12 ) has wonderful suggestions for movies, books, daily practices.

Each night, I meditate on a passage about hope. And as Spirituality & Practice promised, the practice helps. I feel incredibly, surprisingly, hopeful.

“Hope can be learned with practice,” Spirituality and Practice’s authors write. “Certain attitudes support it. One is patience, an ability to tolerate delays, a willingness to let events unfold in their own time.

“The other is courage, an attitude of confidence even when facing the unknown.

“A third is persistence, the determination to keep going no matter what happens.

“We have hope when we can say, all will be well, and we mean it.”

Amber Arellano, an editorial writer for The Detroit News, writes a weekly online column. Email her ataarellano@detnews.com

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