Be A Beacon of Hope

Be A Beacon of Hope - Maria Shriver
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
—Desmond Tutu

I've Been Thinking...

It was dark when I woke up. I made my coffee in silence, then sat down to do my morning meditation. I’ve come to notice that it’s in these early hours when it’s still that I can feel the most. I'm able to make sense of life for a bit when it’s quiet. The stillness allows me to just be.

As soon as I closed my eyes the other morning, the tears started to flow. They came slowly at first, then picked up steam. Within moments, I felt overcome. 

I felt overcome with the heaviness of what is happening an ocean away. Overcome by the heartbreak, the sadness, and the brutality of what we have been witnessing. Every image has pierced my heart. Every story has brought me to silence. Watching women my age and older walk for miles in the freezing cold, holding their purses, falling and getting back up, and charging ahead as they fight back tears. Watching children hold their parents’ hands with looks of confusion, fear, and sadness on their faces. Watching men put their hands up to train windows as they say goodbye to their families leaving, while they stay home and fight to defend their country. Watching loved ones cradle those who lost their lives—weeping and wailing with emotion.

I don’t think anyone can bear witness to any of these images without being totally undone, without being deeply moved, without thinking "there but for the grace of God go I." It’s impossible to bear witness to this war without your heart breaking into pieces. Then you bear witness to President Zelenskyy speaking with strength, conviction, and defiance. He is quite simply extraordinary. His words, “I’m not hiding. And I am not afraid of anyone,” and his resolve took my breath away. This is a man who has met this moment in every way. 

I’ve also watched President Biden lead in his own way. I’ve watched him try diplomacy. I’ve watched him work to solidify the NATO alliance. I’ve watched him try to calm fears and reassure a shaken world. I’ve watched him impose increasingly tougher sanctions, doing all he can to bring some resolution to this horrendous situation without putting Americans on the ground and into another war. I know many pontificate from the sidelines, but I feel like he has done a good job unifying the Western world. I am grateful for his steady, calm leadership. I’m grateful he is leading America at this moment. 

I also know that I don’t know the half of it. I also know that it all can change in a split second, which is why it’s hard to focus on anything else. It is overwhelming for everyone who is paying attention. 

And how can we not pay attention to what is unfolding? How can we not feel what our fellow human beings are going through? This week I also listened to phone recordings of the wives and mothers of Russian soldiers who called a Ukrainian hotline looking for their husbands and sons, seeking information and trying to find out if they were alive or dead. 

They, too, deserve our compassion. They, too, are human beings caught up in this insanity. And, as Mila Kunis points out below in our exclusive Conversation Above the Noise, they are not the enemy. I feel like I can almost feel millions of hearts cracking wide open around the world. The pain, the heartbreak, the sorrow spilling out everywhere. All because of one out-of-control man. God help us.

Every morning this week I found myself struggling to hold onto hope. I’ve struggled to hold onto my faith. I’ve struggled with my own anger, rage, despair, and helplessness. And yet, every time I turn on my TV, there is some story of someone who inspires me and lifts me up. Someone whose humanity takes my breath away. 

Humanity—at its best and at its worst—is being played out in front of our very eyes. I believe that this moment is calling us all, no matter where we live, to be beacons of hope. To not lose faith. To carry on like the millions of Ukrainians who are walking for miles hoping to find safety, hoping to find refuge, hoping to not be afraid.

As I’ve watched the images, I’ve been struck by the fact that one’s life can come down to a backpack. It comes down to the clothes on your back and what fits into your backpack. Let that sink in.

I’ve found myself sitting in the comfort of my home thinking a lot about that. Thinking about whose hand would hold mine. Who would walk with me? Who would welcome me in? Who would help me? What would be in my backpack?

Do you know what would be in your backpack? Do you have someone in your life who would walk with you? Do you think you would be taken in by total strangers? Would you take in total strangers like so many in Poland have done?

Are you thinking about how to meet this moment? There are many ways each of us can meet this moment. None are too small. Whether it’s a donation of diapers, booking an Airbnb in Ukraine, supporting journalists, taking things out of your backpack and sharing them with others here in our own neighborhoods—the list goes on.

These are profound questions. These are questions for this moment and this moment is all we have.

Love,
Maria
PRAYER OF THE WEEK                       

Dear God, please help us make sense of what is happening half a world away. What can we learn from the bravery and courage demonstrated by the people of Ukraine? What lessons might we learn from witnessing humanity, at its best and worst, play out in front of our eyes? Help us hold a place in our hearts for our fellow brothers and sisters. Amen.

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