Friday, January 12, 2007

Carnival of Hope: Volume 1, Number 5

Welcome to Carnival of Hope! The next edition will be posted on Friday, February 9; submissions are due to me by Thursday 2/8, 5:00 PM PST. No immediate themes come to mind, so this one's open. Valentine's Day tends to make me gag, and I couldn't think of a clever theme revolving around groundhogs, so just send your most hopeful posts.

Since we've just begun a new year, the theme of this month's edition is new beginnings. But just as the beginning of one year can't occur without the end of another, so our human beginnings are sometimes inextricably entwined with endings. Several of our posts this month serve as powerful illustrations of that idea. The first few, although ultimately hopeful, are a little tough to read, but fear not: just as winter lightens into spring, so the posts this month will become lighter, too.

We start off with Marcia Kilpatrick's Open Letter to a Family I've Never Met, thanking the family of an organ donor whose heart has given her cousin a new chance at life.

If you've ever wondered if you should sign that organ-donor card, this post should convince you. A few years ago, a friend of mine died at the age of twenty-five, and her younger sister -- her only remaining family -- decided to donate her organs. A friend of ours said, "I hope whoever gets her heart realizes what a treasure it is." Marcia's post made me remember my friend, and I hope that somehow the donor's family will get to read this. And Marcia, I wish your cousin a long, happy life with his new heart.

Daniel Brenton, likewise, shows us how a new beginning can come from tragedy in I am Grateful I am Still Alive.

What happened to Daniel -- being the unwitting agent of a stranger's death -- is one of my worst fears, and I was moved by his account of going through that and coming out the other side. (Daniel, this is why I didn't start driving until I was thirty-six.) This is a harrowing story, but well worth reading.

Recovery from grief, finding hope in new beginnings, is also the theme of Tim Abbott's haunting and poetic "Skating Away (on the Thin Ice of the New Day)", which follows the lines of a family tree -- with both growing and missing branches -- in the figures traced by ice skates. Losing a child is one of the worst griefs there is, but Tim shows us that the joy and buoyancy of living children can, in time, help ease that pain. May Emily and Elias skate far and fast!

Even when a literal death isn't involved, new beginnings often require that we have the courage to walk away from our old lives before those lives kill us -- either literally or figuratively. Laura Young shares the story of her brother's courageous decision to leave police work in Laying Down the Badge. Not only did he recognize the toll that his work was taking on him, but he used his experience to make conditions better at his new job.

When we think of new beginnings, most of us don't consider major life changes. New Year's Resolutions are often more our speed, even if we cheerfully acknowledge that we'll abandon them after three weeks.

Charles H. Green argues convincingly, though, that such resolutions are invitations to self-hatred, and that listing the things for which we're grateful is A Better New Year's Resolution that will ultimately produce the same results.

Gratitude takes practice, however, and sometimes we have to start small. Barbra Sundquist shares an example from her friend Linda in Joy Is Not the Same as Happiness. "Being grateful for toilet paper is an art that I developed when I could not find anything else to be grateful for!" May all of us, like Linda, find people who will hold our dreams in the palms of their hands.

Toilet paper also shows up, accompanied by shower caps, in Andrea Dickson's Bourgeoisie Guilt: Can I Conquer My Vanity for the Sake of My Sanity? Andrea ponders how frugality is often at odds with pride, but also realizes that excessive generosity can begin to warp our perceptions of friendship.

Sometimes we form our deepest friendships with people who have helped us, even when they don't initially speak our language. There's also a lot to be said for traveling without four-star amenities, bringing with you only as much as you can carry, so that you'll truly be open to new experiences and cultures. Jake Danger tells us how his friend Ryoko learned to love backpacking, and leave the tour bus behind, in Lessons From a Turkish Grandmother.

And sometimes people help us by teaching us their language, especially when we're trying to begin a new life in a new country. Steve Rudolf sent his post with this note: "WorkDish is a user-submitted job info site. Here's a great post from a 'reading tutor' about the benefits of such work." The person who wrote the post says, "If you want to feel pretty damn good about the world, spend one afternoon a week helping people learn to read. It's inspiring." I couldn't agree more!

And on that note, see you in February!


  1. I've put together a wonder collection of posts. Great job!


  2. Susan --

    Always an honor to be featured here.

    Who knows? Maybe someday I'll get a publishing contract and make you proud of me.



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