Rising Above

Be strong, all of you who put your hope in the Lord.  Never give up. Psalms 31:24

Last week I returned home after a 12 day vacation. It was a wonderful time away, visiting old friends and meeting new ones, reconnecting and sharing stories. Thoughts of hope are recurrent.

To begin with, we visited old friends in Destin, Florida. Since we were last together, they have gone through his prostate cancer, divorces of 2 of their 3 daughters, the accidental drowning of her sister, the battle with alcoholism of one daughter and her subsequent rehab, relapse and more rehab. Whew! Lots of bad times for several families to bear, let alone one family. They are amazing in their strength and have immense hope for their future and that of their kids and grandkids. They count their blessings. We spent time on the infamous white sand beaches of that area, one night watching the sunset. Our friends go to the beach to watch the sunset, several times a week, along with many others, both locals and tourists. It was a truly amazing sight, and reminded me that watching the sunset in itself brings a sense of hope…that no matter what we are going through, tomorrow is a new day and we can start over. New chances, new beginnings, hope for better.

The latter part of my trip was spent in New Orleans, first with my cousin, then with old friends from high school. It was a whirlwind of music, tours, walks along the river and through cemeteries, shopping and good food. It seemed everywhere we went, folks were eager to talk about their Hurricane Katrina experiences, and we were eager to listen. We heard some amazing stories, but it was evident that for most, life had returned to some sort of normal, even if it was a new normal. There seemed to be a sense of rebirth and optimism, rising above the destruction.

The most touching story came from our cab driver on the way to the airport, just prior to heading home. Charlie was the quintessential southern gentleman, his story filled with “Yes maams” and “no maams.” By the time we ended the 30 minute ride to the airport, we 3 passengers were in tears, giving Charlie handshakes, well wishes and words of encouragement to keep the faith. His Katrina story involved 4 days in a flooded home before rescue, followed by nearly a week in the “Superdome hell,” then a 2 month relocation to Atlanta where he and his family shared space with drug dealers.  He shared that at no time during their ordeal did he give up hope, that he had “faith the good Lord would see them through this rough patch.” Rough patch indeed!

Hope and faith, they are most important, aren’t they?

“I live in a world where the two truths coexist; where both hell and hope lie in the palm of my hand.” Alice Sebold, from the book lucky, an account of the author’s rape as a college student.

Andrea Heshmati

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