How our past gives us hope for the future

I’m sitting on my front porch, admiring my freshly mowed lawn and watching cars drive by. The wind has picked up a little, sending the delicious smell of cut grass throughout my new neighborhood, and each fresh scent brings flashes of memories of my teenage years.

I remember racing my life-long friend through the grass on his farm. The smell of Nebraskan cows connecting this place to the word “peace”, in my memory. Childhood memories carry with us throughout our lives, single moments that continue to shape us as we age.

On many days much like today, I would flutter from our rustic, white farmhouse, to read teenage novels in the curved branch of the tree on the other side of the driveway. Some days I would hide out in the sweltering barn attic for the same purpose, watching the acreage from the triangle-shaped crack in the siding. Or better yet, I forged new paths in our “woods”, day-dreaming of being a character in one of my books. I imagined that no one knew where I was, that I escaped to a world all my own. I’m sure my mom could find me at any moment, like only moms can do, but I’m glad she let me think I had wandered into a secret place.

Two decades after those moments, I’m watching my neighbor – a girl of maybe eleven – ride her bike up and down our street telling stories to herself. She seems oblivious to the world around her; there’s nothing more important than staying on the road, feeling the wind wave to the sunset, listening to the evening song of the cicadas, and delighting in the dance of the fireflies.

As a little girl, I had no idea that I would one day go to college, speak two languages, travel the globe, or write because I’ve read. I never dreamt I’d interpret classes, enjoy art museums, cry over lost loves, or weep over sufferings. Thirteen-year old me never imagined she would kiss boys, debate politics, or make a difference in the lives of many people.

In the same way the girl on the bike has no idea that in twenty years, she’ll probably be fulfilling dreams she never thought possible.

This is my story of hope. That the future always surprises us.

My friend, Kenneth Baker, likes to remind me that the minute I stop talking, my words are in the past. The next moment could hold a life-altering event, or a sweet memory of a moment.

Hope doesn’t always mean a heroic act or a thread to hold to in life’s bleakest times. We find it in the simplest moments, the simplest memories, and the realization that more awaits.

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