On Hope, Resiliency and Silver Linings
An Essay by ‘Houston CityBook’ Executive Publisher Lisa Holthouse
I am in constant awe of how Houstonians handle devastating conditions. We adapt and charge forward.
All of a sudden, the world seems small.
When you see how quickly one small droplet can spread across cultures and oceans to infect societies far and wide, the world seems small.
When you are mandated to stay away from public places and remain only within the company of 10 or fewer at home, the world seems small.
Yet, I interpret small as intimate. And I can’t help but feel a very close, caring, intimate relationship with everyone in our community. So I write you today with feelings of affection, concern, and, above all else, hope.
We have been blindsided by darkness and thrust into a war out of nowhere. One day we were writers, artists, restaurateurs, doctors, lawyers, homemakers, students, bartenders, secretaries, business owners — and now we are warriors. We have discomfort, sadness, anxiety, confusion and illness. But through it all — and I’m certain we are not even to the peak of devastation — we must remain hopeful, as there is no greater power than hope.
I don’t want to minimize the severity of what is going on in our world full of disruption and global uncertainty, not in any way. Even the UN Secretary calls this pandemic “the greatest test humanity has faced since WWII.” However, I can’t help but focus some attention on the positively beautiful things that come out of chaos and disaster when you shift your mindset, if only for a few minutes.
I have shed a tear at least once a day since we first learned of the Coronavirus. But not always out of fear or sadness or compassion, no. In fact, often they are sentimental happy tears, such as when I witness someone helping another. Or when I see a father and child spending quality time together while stuck at home. Or when I watch the pope speak to an empty St. Peter’s Square in the pouring rain, sending prayers all over the world. The kindness and grit I have seen among Houston’s business owners is so heartwarming. When a clothing boutique owner offers to run errands or grocery shop for his clients. When the neighborhood Italian restaurant shifts focus and becomes a grocery store that sells raw fish and vegetables. I am in constant awe of how Houstonians handle devastating conditions. We adapt and charge forward.
On the other side of the globe, Italian streets regularly ring out with song as people lean out of windows to sing together during total lockdown; they are not even allowed to take a walk outside. Although we are far too spread out to sing together here in Houston, I feel we are equally connected. “We shine our best in the darkness,” as they say in Italy. Houstonians are no different.
I was recently sent a piece from C.S. Lewis’ book that was written in 1942 titled the Screwtape Letters. His characters were Satan and God. And although fictional, I can’t help but believe he was on to something even back then. Here’s a short excerpt:
Satan: I will cause anxiety, fear and panic. I will shut down business, schools, places of worship, and sporting events. I will cause economic turmoil.
God: I will bring together neighbors, restore the family unit, I will bring dinner back to the kitchen table. I will help people slow down their lives and appreciate what really matters. I will teach my children to rely on me and not the world. I will teach my children to trust me and not their money and material resources.
It resonates with me. And each time I stop to dine in the evening, missing my favorite neighborhood sushi restaurant that was forced to close, I am thankful for the opportunity to sit with my family at the dinner table.
Although the first such calamity of our lifetime, it is certainly not the first the world has seen. Whether smallpox, the bubonic plague, influenza or a world war, generations persevered and made it through stronger on the other side. We, too, will get through this. And because of it, we will be bound together as a united and tenacious generation forever
I’m certainly not saying we shouldn’t grieve. We are human and we are suffering a great amount of loss. Between social distancing, economic turmoil and sickness, we are struggling. But there is always a silver lining, as I have said many a time. And I am choosing to spend a good amount of time searching for that silver.
Days before this invisible enemy attacked our country, I had the privilege of spending some time with a wise and wonderful woman who views her home as “her sanctuary,” and thus has taught me to view mine as the same. Dr. Edith Eva Eger, a Holocaust survivor who as a young child in Auschwitz was forced to ballet dance for Hitler’s top commander after watching her mom march to her death, tells an indelible story in her autobiography, The Choice. In her memoir, she also gives some uplifting and encouraging guidance on how to live your best life despite the most dreaded, unfathomable circumstances, and councils that it’s your choice “how you feel” and “how you deal” with any situation you are thrust into. Nobody and no situation can make you feel afraid or make you angry. You “allow” yourself to feel that way, and therefore you and only you are in control of your world.
I look forward to seeing you all on the other side. And I concur with another of C.S. Lewis’s beliefs: “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
Stay healthy. Stay strong. Stay positive. Stay hopeful.