Fighting the feeling of hopelessness, helplessness

SUSAN K. SMITH | 1/9/2017, 9:30 a.m.
In a recent program on CNN, Lisa Ling, who hosts This is Life, interviewed people who were addicted to drugs. ...
Susan K Smith

Crazy Faith Ministries

In a recent program on CNN, Lisa Ling, who hosts This is Life, interviewed people who were addicted to drugs. Some were Black, others White, but all had the same struggle. I watched bits and pieces of the program but heard the comments of the African American men. Most of those to whom she talked were in prison; others were out after having been incarcerated for years but could not make a living. I knew that story well.

But my spirit responded when she interviewed a young White girl with a serious addiction to heroin. This young girl talked of the struggle, but then recalled a time when she visited the West Side of Chicago, looking for drugs. She had drugs on her when she was stopped by police and, she said, “he saw them,” but instead of hauling her into the cruiser and taking her to jail, she said he yelled at her, “Get out of here! Get the ---- out of the West Side.”

Involuntarily, the tears began to fall down my face. It is probably safe to say that everyone with an ounce of awareness knows about the double standard applied to Whites and Blacks as concerns drugs, but when you hear it, it does something to you, not unlike seeing Black people attacked by police dogs in the 60s or shot in the back by police officers in these present times. It hurts.

Those stories and images can lead to a feeling of despair, which Rebecca Solnit, in her book Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories; Wild Possibilities, says is “a kind of fatigue, a loss of faith, that can be overcome or even an indulgence if you look at the power of being political as a privilege not granted to everyone.” She quotes Paolo Freire, who wrote Pedagogy of Hope, in which he says, “without a minimum of hope, we cannot so much as start the struggle. Without struggle, hope dissipates, loses it bearings and turns into hopelessness. And hopelessness can turn into tragic despair. Hence, the need for a kind of education in hope.”

It is that education and reassurance that many need right now. With all that is going on in the world, it feels like the enemies of justice have been victorious, and for a moment, they do appear to have the upper hand, but they forget that the Hand over us all is the hand of God. That Hand has been over us as oppressed people from the beginning of time; that Hand is the reason the oppressed, though battered about, have not disappeared. The Hand of God is always there. If we reach for it, we find the energy that gives us hope when all hope seems lost.

We all know the story about the father of the prodigal son, who, though his son was wayward and rebellious, never lost his bond, his love and his belief that his son would “come to himself.” When that father saw his son coming home, dirty and unkempt, the father ran toward him, lifting up his robes as he did so. In Middle Eastern culture, a man never ran. To do so meant he would have to pick up his tunic (his robes) and in doing that, would show his bare legs. That was forbidden. A man did not run, and a man did not expose his bare legs.