Mentors of Hope
Visits with my best friends typically include the question, “what are you reading?” Sometimes I am embarrassed and tongue-tied because I don’t want to admit that I can’t even remember the name of the author or the title of the book in that moment. I know it is a good book and can even tell you the color of the cover or quote several passages from it. But the name of the author? — Ah, the joys of being 70 keep coming! Still, I am grateful for this question and for these friends as they are asking a deeper question, more fundamental question. It is “who is teaching you these days?”
Good reader, who are your teachers? This is not asking you who were your teachers? Rather what is informing you today? No doubt lessons from the past are critical to shaping who we are. I do remember elementary school teachers like Ms. Kerns, Ms. Schindler, Ms. Williams, Mr. Glass all offered lessons that still shape my living. Occasionally I hear echoes of Ms. Schindler, third grade teacher saying “Philip, you are too good not to be better!” What an enduring word — her legacy on my life.
Lessons from today are even more essential — essential to shaping who we will become. Who teaches us now? In a time when ignorance and falsehood is the trademark of one Donald Trump, the question “what are your reading?” is critical. If you find Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy troubling, “what are you reading?” What gives you perspective beyond the same ole talking heads on television?
So, here are a few folks who are shaping my thoughts today for the future:
- Sara Wenger Shenk is president of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. In her blog “Practicing Restoration” Sara recently wrote of Beauty in the Borderlands (Wenger Shenk, Practicing Restoration). Very nice — and full of wisdom like the importance of “caring for the institution you are trying to heal.”
- President Wenger Shenk mentions Gregory Wolfe’s Beauty Will Save the World and I am reminded of another wonderful teacher for these times. I have only started the book but find it so compelling, I can even remember the name of the author!
- Then there is the work Connected by Nicholas Christakis and James H. Fowler that points to the power of our networks of friends and their friends who touch our lives in ways that shape our worlds for benefit or disease.
- I would mention the daily meditation pieces from Richard Rohr, at the Center for Action and Contemplation – see Richard Rohr meditations. He has recently challenged my tendency to think too often in binary ways and reminded again of the powerful benefit of paradox for us if we are to find more hope-filled ways forward.
- Lastly, I would mention Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History at Revisionist History podcast. He has just completed the first ten podcasts for this summer season. They are richly rewarding and will make you think!
In a period of history when the temptation is to watch my favorite news channel (Fox or MSNBC or CNN or…. you name it) our communities and our body politic deserve our efforts to think more clearly and not find ourselves trapped in our limited cul de sacs of narrow analysis. Read on good folks — think more broadly. Our world deserves the best we can know, even if we can’t always remember the name of the author or the title of the work. Where do you find hope? Who mentors you in that direction?
It is all too easy to focus on some issue of discontent. Okay, I hear your complaints. What I want to know is where do you find hope — where do you see folks coming together?
I write trusting that in some small way I can act as a mentor of hope today. I will have my issues of disagreement with others, of course. I challenge you to join me to read more widely, think more broadly, our world needs you to do so.