Recently I received a lovely surprise – a little card, completely unexpected and unsolicited. I have been carrying it with me ever since.

You met with me…for coffee several times when my son was having difficulties and I needed support through that period. His life has come together now and it looks positive for him. Your ministry is so valuable and I hope it can continue…

I don’t usually share such fragments – much of what a chaplain does is in confidence. But I reckon it must have been three or four years ago and I think there is sufficient distance.

The student was suicidal and getting psychiatric help. He came to see me only once, as I recall, and he had a dozen deep issues. But the bit of our conversation I remember clearly was his response to my question of what he wanted to do with his life – a fairly challenging question if you were thinking about ending it soon! I remember the pain in his eyes as he grappled for an answer. It was as though it was given to him from outside of himself, as though he could not himself have conceived it – “I want to do something to make a difference.”

In that answer I sensed he had made a movement from complete despair to hope, even if it was just a glimmer. And it gave me hope in him, that he would find the inner courage to work through his problems.

It also enabled me to shift my concern to supporting his parents, his nurturing environment.

Gary Bouma, in his new book “Australian Soul” (Cambridge 2006, p18,19) puts it well, I think…

I hope because hope is essential to all (human) life. Without hope we wither and die. Depression, the loss of hope, is debilitating physically, socially and mentally and requires hope to be cured….The simple act of getting out of bed requires hope. Willingness to expend energy for self, for another or for a project requires hope….
Hope is … an essential ingredient for the functioning of societies…

We enter the season of Easter, Anzac Day and National Sorry Day, all times when hope for a new tomorrow springs out of the darkness of the worst that we do to ourselves, the worst of religion, and the worst of politics.

Martin Luther King, in his sermon on the words of Jesus on the Cross, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do!” reminds us that the pervayers of darkness are not “bad” people, but ignorant people – perhaps well-meaning but with diminished vision.. And that the way forward is prefaced on forgiveness.

There is a lot to be hopeful about at Flinders. May a simple but profound expression of recognition, as I recently received, come your way in this season and renew your hope. And may you, in like manner, make a point of affirming someone else to renew theirs!

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