It was a working stop light. Who would have imagined that? Something irritating for people in a hurry becomes a sign of hope in another situation.
The stop light was in a New Orleans neighborhood. The neighborhood was one of those worst-hit by Hurricane Katrina. There was really nothing left. Six months after the hurricane the neighborhood was a wasteland; piles of rubble, waist-high weeds in lots where houses had been, a few boarded-up homes. And there was nothing – no cars, no people, no dogs, no kids riding bikes, no sound, but a breeze kicking up a little dust. There was a strange emptiness.
And as the narrator told the story, he described driving through this neighborhood, his old neighborhood. He was all alone. And as he slowly drove along he came to an intersection. And then to his surprise, the stop light turned red. Somehow the light still worked. And so he stopped. There were no other cars. There were no other people. There was no danger of an accident. But he stopped. And he waited. And when the light turned green, he went. And he said that amidst all of life being turned upside down, it felt good to do something normal, like stop at a traffic light, in the wasteland that was his neighborhood. In fact, it felt so good he turned around and did it again; red stop, green go. That stop light became a sign of hope amidst the devastation of so much life.
Strange, isn’t it? Or maybe not.
Signs of hope appear at surprising times, if we pay attention. A kid finds food for the weekend in his backpack from people in a church he does not know. Single, young moms sit around a table sharing a craft and conversation, and for a few hours they feel their young ages again. A note from a friend arrives at the darkest of times, and he remembers he is not alone. The words of a prayer, or the melody of a song, or a verse of scripture ... they have been heard many times before, but this day, somehow, they touch the heart. Strange, isn’t it. Or maybe not.
In her poem “Hope and Love,” Jane Hirshfield writes: “I know that hope is the hardest love we carry.” It is had at times to love and hope. Bur Christianity is about love, and so we also hope: “For God so loved the world ...”; “God is love”; “Love the Lord your God”; “Love your neighbor as yourself”; “Love one another as I have loved you ... and by this everyone will know you are my disciples”; “Love never ends”; “The greatest of these is love.”
As so we love, and are loved. And in that love there is hope; a surprising signal, a gift of God’s grace. Hope is difficult to carry at times. But we do, because we love. What love can you receive? What hope can you share?
Rev. Dr. Glenn Hink is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Sharon.