Where There Is Hope

Part of my daily web-surfing routine involves browsing a site called Neatorama (www.neatorama.com).  It has all kinds of “neat” things from the internet.  This week the headline Normandy Photos:  World War II and Today got my attention.  I’m a photography enthusiast but it was the contrasting photos they chose that pulled me in.  On the left is a 1944 photo depicting a scene of horrific and traumatic war-time destruction.  On the right is a modern-day shot of the same location:  rebuilt, clean, enticing.

I followed the link and took my time examining the 100+ photos that contrast the aftermath of war with scenes of today.  It was humbling and sad and encouraging.

Picture after picture I was more and more impressed that it had been rebuilt.  The buildings and the lives.  Out of that hopelessness and despair and devastation, it was rebuilt.   It made me think that as long as we, as a people, have hope, what can we not do?

I have to think that many of the people living in the rubble did not have hope.  Or they only scraped together the fragments and dust of hope.  But it was enough to drive them forward.

Tom Brokaw wrote an amazing book entitled No Greater Generation, which I strongly recommend.  He makes the case that the generation of World War II is the greatest generation not only because of what they accomplished, but what they survived.  And what they built after the war was over.  I grew up surrounded by people of that generation and there certainly was something different about them that I understood without reading a book.  It was their strength.  And I think before the strength, came the hope…the belief that no matter what today is…tomorrow will be different.  Better?  Who knows?  But we won’t know unless we press forward into tomorrow to find out.  And it certainly doesn’t stand a chance of being better if we don’t work at making it so.

I have never been through a war nor anything comparable to what those folks went through when their homes, towns, regions, nations and lives were destroyed.  The closest was when Kalamazoo, Michigan was devastated by one of the worst tornados on record (http://www.vanishedkalamazoo.com/tornado/tornado.htm).  I remember thinking, after the tornado, that “life was over”.  I could not see the way back to “normal”.  Being a worrier by nature, the tornado had a huge and lasting impact on me.

Kalamazoo was rebuilt.  Just six years after the tornado I started a 13-year stint working in the downtown that had been wiped out by the storm.

Our ability to use hope as a fuel to move on, survive and rebuild amazes me.  Of course while the storm is beating against the walls, hope and strength are difficult to muster.  But history can teach us that life “after” is possible.  Better.  Worse.  Different.  Life.