If you want to care for your community, you need to be an optimist. Optimism is more than just naive positivity, however. It is activated hope, courage, and confidence that something better will grow out of what we already have. As optimists we determine to pursue hope in all that we encounter, we hold on to small sprouts of peace in our relationships and lives, and nurture them.
Optimism, and the hope that fuels it, is found in something deeper still. We do not buy optimism. Rather it grows out of a story, our story. It grows out of the belief that there is more happening around us and in us than we see. To believe that our community has a future often requires a deeper belief in our past, where we have come from and what got us here may give us insight into where we can go together.
One of my life phrases is, “a long obedience in the same direction.” It is my belief that we live well, hope well, and weather the storms of life by being faithful and consistent. I’ve discovered it to be neither boring or tedious. In fact, having “a long obedience in the same direction” has given me something I did not know I could have: optimism. In my own story, I have come to see that God is faithful to me. No matter what I seem to face, no matter how often I find a ditch and bottom out, God does not miss a beat. I’m not naive to the pain and sorrow, but I know that they are not the end of the story. Optimism does not cover over the hardship in our community, in our neighbourhoods, families, and city. Rather it embraces all things and says, “there is a future for us here, a new day is coming.”
Heroes of my faith like Moses and Paul, were not heroes because of some super-star skills. In fact, they were rather flawed people. But they discovered the hope of a long-term, steady, dependable, and life-long commitment to their community – to the people entrusted to their care. They became faithful and hopeful people because they had this deep sense that God was near, that they were part of a much bigger story, and that even in the darkest times, there would be a new and better future.
To love our communities well requires optimists. It requires people who truly believe that goodness, beauty, hope, and peace can be nurtured here. It requires people who have been through hard times and know that the story is not over. It requires people who believe in a new day and believe the best for others, because they have experienced grace themselves.
May you see yourself as your neighbourhood optimist. May you be the person who cheers on the small and the beautiful in your place. May your vision for your neighbourhood inspire others and may we all experience and enjoy hope together. Remember that your story matters because you matter.