I try to find ways of keeping up energy and hope. One has to, otherwise it’s all overwhelming.
‘Speak up!’ people say to me, over and again:
– It’s Refugee Week starting Monday: refugees are people like us, yet they’re people nobody seems to want.
– It’s Pride Month, this essential, all-embracing affirmation and celebration of the equality, dignity and unique value of every human being.
– It’s Clean Air Day: our cities need not particles and nitrogen dioxide but life-giving, God-given air.
– It’s No Child Left Behind week from the 24th. In Britain up to one mother in four skips meals in order to feed her children: how can they learn at school when their heads ache with hunger?
– It’s London Climate Action Week at the end of June, please care! I do; I love our suffering, on-edge world of nature, love it in leaf, bird and secretive deer. And we all depend on it utterly.
Sometimes it feels so much that an awful line goes through my head: How do we get the world off death row?
So there are three things I do, if I can. I’m setting them down sequentially, but there’s no correct order.
First, I try to travel inwards to my personal Hebron. When, as we read in the Torah this week, Caleb was sent to spy out the Promised Land, he needed help to keep up his courage. The rabbis tell us that he took a detour to Hebron to pray at the graves of the ancestors. He said to them: this is hard and there’s great discouragement, so help me stay strong.
My inner Hebron holds not the graves of my grandfather and father, but their photographs. I look at them often during prayers, or see them in my mind’s eye. I say to them: you stood firm despite the Nazis and the wars. Be with me; give me strength. I sense them looking back at me, willing me courage.
I believe we all have our inner Hebron. I often ask people in their days of pain and trouble if they manage to visit it often enough.
Secondly, I team up with others who care. Last Wednesday, for example, I simply had to see my friend the bishop. I’ve several bishop friends, but I mean Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski, the leader of the Ukrainian community of displaced persons here in Britain.
We were glad to see each other. We had similar feelings in our hearts: outrage, inexpressible sorrow for the people, nature, future, ruined by the destruction of the Kakhovka dam. I called a congregant whose family live in Kherson. She emailed back: Our beautiful, beautiful land…
The bishop and I had the same question in our minds: what can one do? It’s a bad metaphor in the circumstances, we agreed, but if all one can achieve is a drop in the bucket, that, nevertheless, is what one has to do.
In situation after situation, focussing on that drop in the bucket becomes one’s strength, one’s grit and hope. Sometimes it even turns out that there are so many others doing what they can that the bucket is almost full. But even if that’s not the case, the solidarity, commitment, and sense of purpose one feels restores the muscles and the soul.
Thirdly, I look out at the beauty of the world. I‘ll never forget how once, very late, walking through Noam, our youth camp, I overheard a small choir rehearsing ‘It’s a wonderful world.’ Their voices carried far out into the night, bringing joy into the darkness.
I’ve set these matters down not because I need to tell others, but because, like many others, I need to tell them over and again to myself.