I was raised by a father who's second greatest pride was his military service (pretty sure us kids were his greatest). Growing up during the Viet Nam war, (call it a conflict if you want to be pc, but men and women were called to serve, they went, and some did not come back, that's war) I remained the hawk that Daddy raised me to be. During Desert Storm, still a hawk. When a teacher where I worked remarked, as we watched coverage on the tv in the office, that it was so sad that young men had to go to war, I asked her where she thought the generals and commanders for the next war would come from.
Then my son grew, as sons do, and before I knew it he was on the doorstep of turning 18. Overnight, I switched from being a diehard hawk to devout dove. Writing a paper for an American History class, I stated that I couldn't imagine a cause great enough to cost the life of my son. And suddenly, without notice, the world was turned upside down on 9/11. James was in college, but living at home. Rachael and I had been on a short road trip when we heard the news. I couldn't get home fast enough. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes, as it does to many of you. When I walked in the back door, James was sitting at the kitchen table waiting for me. My sweet Baby James looked at me through the eyes of a man and said, "If they call, I'll have to go."
My gut still wretches at the prospect. And I won't lie, when James turned 25, my heart relaxed just a little to know he was past the initial draft age. But in that moment, September 11, 2011, I was probably prouder of my son than at any other time in our lives. He was willing to do what must be done, and in the eyes of a man in the face of my baby, I saw the hope of our nation.
When I knew I was to retire to write for children, I wrote vision and mission statements in my journal. It really helped to keep me focused. Now that I am following through on following my dream, something has begun to stir in me to clarify that vision and mission. Current events, reading about "God-sized dreams", and even the orthopedic surgeon I recently visited, have honed vision and mission into one word: HOPE. Hope for my kids. Not the ones who look like me. At risk, marginalized, low SES, whatever term you choose to use, children whose hope is fragile, or even non-existent. Hope for students who sat in my classroom, walked the halls of my school, trying to survive the streets of my city. That's my vision: giving hope to the hopeless.
How am I going to do that, what's my mission? The prophet Isaiah (61:1) has provided the words: tell good news to the poor, comfort the sad, and show kindness. That's why I'm writing. My first book, Life with Bobby and Bonnie (Life in the Hood through the Eyes of the Wood), is stories about issues of life. Issues that could devastate any child, even one with strong support systems, but written to bring hope to all children, especially the forgotten ones. I want to tell the kids the good news that they are not alone. I want to acknowledge and comfort them in their sadness. I want to show them kindness by sharing a story, a smile, a touch, and a book of their own to walk away with to remind them that there is hope.
My prayer is that my conviction and passion will be contagious. God spent ten years breaking my heart, opening it up so that He could fill it with something for "the least of these". Your prayers for my kids and me are coveted and cherished. My prayer for you is that God would bring you new or renewed hope in whatever area of your life that may be weak or withering.
What are you most hopeful about? What gives you hope?
Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.