I have a neighbor who lives about a quarter mile down the road from me who is mentally challenged. Although she is in her early 20’s, she lives in the world of ten or eleven year old surrounded by fantasies. She has a sweet disposition and in the summer comes to bring me wild flowers that she picks along the roadside.
Today she knocked at my door wearing a Santa hat. She extended a large Christmas card sized envelope toward me and said, “Would you please see that this gets to Santa Claus?” The envelope bore a fresh postage stamp, her return address label, and a large sticker depicting an angel. Scrawled on it in childish printing were the words “to Santa Claus to the North Pole.”
“George and I want a Doberman puppy. They grow fast and then it will be protection for us.” George is her elderly care-taker.
“Does it have to be a purebred Doberman? Could it be, oh, maybe half Doberman?” I asked.
“Sure. That would be okay,” she beamed.
“Maybe you could find one at the shelter,” I suggested. She said they couldn’t afford it and that’s why they were writing to Santa. Would I make sure he got their card? Maybe put it on the Internet or something?
I’m not sure yet what I will do about her request. I’ll ask animal-lover friends for their advice. Meanwhile, the card is sitting on my kitchen counter, reminding me that this is the season for wishes and hopes.
They’re different, you know. Wishes are for things we think will fill a need or desire in our lives. They’re for trinkets and baubles, or, on the more serious side, for comfort, for solutions, for healing, for changes of circumstance. Sometimes we make wishes with the firm belief that they can come true. Sometimes we make them even when their fulfillment seems outrageously unlikely. But we make them regardless, because just the act of wishing, of holding open even a faint possibility, feels good. Wishes let us dream.
Hope, on the other hand, is an attitude, a disposition of character. Hope is a commitment to keeping a space in our hearts and minds for the possibility that, come what may, goodness will prevail. It’s closely related to optimism, a determination to look for the good, for the silver lining in the darkest of clouds. It holds to a belief in the power of truth over deception, of love over indifference and hate, of compassion over meanness. Hope allows us to endure difficulties and pain, to see them as temporary circumstances or as teachers of wisdom, or even as opportunities in disguise. It enables us to maintain equanimity and inner peace in the midst of life’s confusion and storms. It opens us to seeing actions we might take to move circumstances toward more optimum conditions.
As we move into the Christmas season, to the solstice, the time of the return of the light, I hope, with you, for a world of peace and brotherhood. And I wish for you that all your best wishes come true.