an earring of hope


    Today is Steve Earle’s birthday.

    I’ve been listening to his songs all day, which is not so different from many other days, just more purposed. I love both his music and his story: he is a living testament to hope and redemption. One of my favorite tunes is “Some Dreams,” which was used as the theme song for The Rookie and embodies his tenacity and determination.

    The chorus says, simply

    some dreams
    they never come true
    they never come true
    yeah, but some dreams do

    As a recovering addict, he knows of what he speaks. As I listened to it this week, the two middle lines were the ones that hung with me: some dreams never come true. Life, often, doesn’t go the way we plan or even hope for. There are dreams we can taste and see, things we know how to bring into being if things were to fall a certain way and those things don’t fall. We have worthy ideas and good plans and, still, some dreams . . . .

    I know. Aren’t you glad you read this far?

    Please keep going, because I did. As I kept singing the song, something hit me in a way that it had not before – and I can express it best in a paraphrase of the same chorus:

    some dreams
    they never come true
    they never come true
    yeah, but someone’s do . . . .

    On the heels of MLK Day and the countless repetitions of his “I Have a Dream” speech (which never gets old), I am aware in ways I was not before that dreams come to life – and death – in community. Whatever a dream becomes is born out of togetherness. AS long as I’m paraphrasing, there is no “I” in d-r-e-a-m. (Now you will quit reading.) Dreams have a chance to come true when community congeals around them; when mine don’t, I then have the chance to find meaning and healing in a dream that belongs to someone else in this shared adventure we call life together. I get to help your dreams come true or, perhaps, we will stand together in our magnificent defeats. That’s good news all on its own.

    When I was in seminary, I pastured a small rural church in Central Texas populated, mostly, by farmers and ranchers, most all of whom planted some sort of hay each spring. When it came time, harvesting was a communal exercise. We all showed up at whoever’s farm ripened first and helped them cut, bail, and haul the hay into their barn. By the time we were finished, someone else’s field was ready. Over the course of a couple of weeks, we worked our way around four or five farms. My contribution was to bring out a couple of my large seminary friends who knew how to haul hay. We worked hard, ate well, took care of each other, and came away with some good stories to tell. Occasionally, a mistimed thunder storm would mean the hay that was cut but not yet bailed was going to be lost on one of the farms. Again, I saw the power of community as the ranchers took care of one another.

    And they would all plant again the next year.

    John Berger is a writer and artist who inspires me. I am in the middle of his latest work, Bento’s Sketchbook: How Does the Impulse to Draw Something Begin? is stretching both my mind and heart. In a chapter that has nothing to do with what I’m talking about here, he makes this statement, describing the work of another artist:

    A sense of belonging to what-has-been and to the yet-to-come is what distinguishes [us] from the other animals. Yet to face History is to face the tragic. Which is why many prefer to look away. To decide to engage oneself in History requires, even when the decision is a desperate one, hope. An earring of hope.

    I smiled when I first read the last sentence. The two little silver rings that have lived in my left ear lobe for twelve or thirteen years found a new shine and significance in his words. These are days around here – and by here I am drawing a larger circle than our address – where pain and grief and loss feel as common as weather. Things we thought would happen will not. People we hoped would stay have gone. Here, in between the what-has-been and the yet-to-come, we are working hard to engage. Were it a matter of saying, “I must go on,” I’m not sure many would do so. But even as we face the tragedy that is life, we are also being offered invitations by those around us to remember we belong. Some of the invitations to dream beyond ourselves are as small as trusting we can get to lunch or carry on a conversation. Others offer the chance to see dreams come true in everything from supporting midwives in Guatemala to opening an urban farm in East Durham to making music and writing books. And that’s just here in Durham. I don’t mean to make it sound as though the strings well up at sunset and everything is hunky dunky, and yet I do catch a glimpse of something in the midst of my melancholy, a flash of promise.

    An earring of hope.



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