Monday, June 30, 2008

A Sliver of Hope

Jean Kerr said, "Hope is the feeling you have that the feeling you have isn't permanent."

I like that. Hope is what we have when we know that the night will soon be over. Hope is what we have when we somehow know that dawn is coming.

It seems that hope is in short supply these days. Which is why I like this story about "Robbie" Risner, who found that the tiniest bit of hope alone could keep him alive.

Brigadier General Robinson Risner ("Robbie") spent seven years as a POW at the "Hanoi Hilton," as prisoners of war called their North Viet Nam compound. It was horrendous. He endured four and a half years of that time in forced isolation. Four and a half years with no human contact; no conversation; no touch. The intent of his solitary confinement was to break his will.

And what's worse, ten months of that isolation were spent in total darkness! Robbie remembers that those ten months were the longest of his life. The day guards boarded up his little seven-by-seven foot cell, shutting out the light, he wondered if he was going to make it. He had already been under intense physical and mental duress after years of confinement. And now, not a glimmer of light shone into his cell -- or into his soul. It seemed hopeless.

Robbie spent hours a day in the dark exercising and praying. But at times he felt he could nothing but scream. Not wanting to give his captors the satisfaction of knowing they'd broken him, he stuffed clothing into his mouth to muffle the noise as he screamed at the top of his lungs.

Hope came in the form of a single blade of grass. One day Robbie got down on the floor and crawled under his bunk. He located a vent that let in outside air. As he pressed against the vent, he saw a faint glimmer of light reflected on the inside wall of the opening. Robbie put his eye next to the cement wall and discovered a minute crack in the construction. It allowed him to glimpse outside, but was so small that all he could see was one blade of grass. A single blade of grass and a faint ray of light. But when he stared at the sight, he felt a surge of joy, excitement and gratitude like he hadn't known in years.

In that single blade of grass he saw life and growth. And he saw freedom. As long as could gaze upon one little blade of grass, he could remind himself that his darkness would someday be over. Dawn would come again. He would live and, like the grass, he would thrive. It was only a sliver of hope, no larger than the tiny crack through which he gazed, but it could be enough.

If you could use a little more hope, try to find a sliver of light in your darkness. I suspect it's there. And it may not seem like much, but it might be enough to get you through the night.

-- Steve Goodier

Image by Allison Chopopick