pronouns: they, them, their

Captives of Hope


Rev. Chani Getter

March 20, 2024

An Activist’s Reflection

“What is the hardest thing for each of you as activists?” Ashley Flowers from Crime Junkie asked each of us panelists.

On Thursday, I had the distinct honor to speak at the 68th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, in the breakout room of “True Crime: Forced Marriage in the United States” organized by Unchained at Last, an organization dedicated to ending forced and child marriage in the United States through direct services and system change.

I paused and partially quoted Reinhold Niebuhr, “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime… that is the hardest thing for me,” I said. I had forgotten the second half of that quote, “therefore we must be saved by hope.”

As the world we have known crumbles. From information being accessible that we know about global events to noticing the violence that has always existed. We can no longer hide from the inequalities. We are asked to act, to change, to grow. I am having more and more conversations with people about how the old no longer works and something has to shift, something that we have not seen before, a new vision, a new paradigm, a new reality must emerge. One in which we speak about what is happening and honor ALL people. Where we notice each other’s humanity first and tribal and/or political allegiances after.

The questions that seem to emerge over and over again is this: “There is so much broken in the world, so much to fix, so much to change, so much to shift… how do we figure out what our priorities are, where to put our energies?”

Many years ago, I took an Embodies Activism class and the presenter, I can’t seem to remember who it was, walked us through an exercise. We all called out the things that were broken in the world: war, pet cruelty, child marriage, hunger, global warming, addiction, lack of autonomy, etc. etc. etc.  The more he wrote on the white board, the more overwhelming the task of being an embodied activist seemed.

He paused and looked at us. He said, “Find one thing, just one thing that you are passionate about and work on that. Just one thing, if you try to do it all you will get nothing done.”

A month ago, I took a class, Soul Nourishment, with Reverend Diane Burke and Reverend David Wallace at One Spirit Learning Alliance. During the day, at one of the breakout groups, we were each asked to name a gift we were bringing to this breaking world.

A friend of mine said she was bringing creativity, another one said prayer, someone said joy, I said hope.

There is a chant that we have been singing in my synagogue lately that has connected me to my hope. The words come from an ancient text and were put to lyrics by Cantor Becky Mann.

Baruch ata Adonai, asher asanu asiray tikva, Blessed are you Spirit, who has made us captives of hope.

It is hard to stay hopeful, to step into and remain a captive of hope, to believe that there is a better future for all of us, to take the steps to create that reality.

“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime, therefore we must be saved by hope.” 

– Reinhold Niebuhr

What is one thing that you are passionate about? One gift that you can bring to the world? One small step you can do that will bring the world to wholeness?

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