Heavy Hearts and Active Hope

            As 2021 draws to a close,  I find myself carrying a heavy heart.  Just when we thought we were coming out of COVID, the omicron variant struck.  Emergency rooms and intensive care units overflow again, deaths increase, health care workers are again stretched beyond their limits. 

            Furthermore, after the inauguration earlier this year of the first woman of color as a Vice President in the United States and a President committed to racial justice, I imagined the country would be further along in stopping police killings of black and brown people.  And I imagined more people of color would be able to vote. Instead, we got more police and vigilante killings of people of color and new restrictive laws prohibiting people of color from voting.

            And I imagined the first steps of healing the bitter political divisions in this country.  Instead, we still have people defending the January insurrection and people still questioning the validity of elections won fair and square.

            And I imagined the first steps of healing our precious planet.  Instead, legislation is being blocked right and left as our world burns.

            I find myself crying out, “How long, O Lord?”  I wanted a straight path from vaccination to re-opening. I wanted a straight path from the U.S. election to racial justice and a functional democracy.  I wanted progress toward healing our planet.  I wanted to be further along by now.

            As I search for inspiration in these times, Joanna Macy’s work speaks to me.  In the group process she uses,  The Work that Reconnects, she articulates the place of Active Hope.  Active Hope, she claims, is not a feeling but a practice.  We choose to practice Active Hope.  The three steps of this practice, 1) facing reality, 2) identifying what we hope for, and 3) identifying the steps of action that are ours to take to move toward that goal, though deceptively simple on the surface, prove powerful in practice.   As she points out, most books addressing the problems of the world focus either on analysis of the problems or on solutions to those problems.  Analysis and rational solutions get us only so far.  Active Hope, on the other hand, focuses on how to strengthen and support our intention to act.  While left-brain analysis is important, right-brain imagination, inspiration, and intention complement that analysis by providing the strength and will to take effective steps toward change. Furthermore, when right-brain imagination, inspiration, and intention are practiced in a community of like-minded souls, their power is multiplied.

            I don’t have a master plan. I don’t know the way forward on a grand scale.  My heart is still heavy.  Yet I know that I can practice Active Hope, and that doing so will make a difference in the world.  As Margaret Mead reminded us, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

2 Responses to “Heavy Hearts and Active Hope”


  1. 1 Kathy Lieffort December 23, 2021 at 12:20 pm

    Beautifully written, Margaret, I resonate and connect.


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