A New Day Will Dawn

     For the past ten months, dates and benchmarks for getting things back to normal have been set. When those criteria came and went without any glimpse of normalcy, new ones were established. Like the cool-water mirage that disappears each time the thirsty man gets close, the pattern continues to this day.
     With each new battle, the angry war of words raged, and each side of the political fight pinned their optimism on that Tuesday in November. The next morning, some awoke with renewed energy. Others awoke to a sense of dread. Then optimism was pinned on attorneys and judges. Again, one group rejoiced, and one group was sad. Optimism was again pinned to a date in January. Spirits were high on both sides of the argument that their side would come out victorious. And, yet again, one side reveled while the other side stared in disbelief.
     Admiral Jim Stockdale spent eight years, from 1965 to 1973, in the “Hanoi Hilton” prisoner-of-war camp during the Vietnam War. He was continually tortured during that time. He had no set release date and wasn’t afforded any prisoner’s rights. He didn’t know if he would live to see his family again. He was eventually released and received the Congressional Medal Of Honor for his service to the United States. Throughout his time in the prisoner-of-war camp, he shouldered the burden of command and did all he could to create conditions to help other prisoners survive.
     During a talk with Jim Collins, author of the book Good to Great, Collins asked Stockdale how he dealt with being a prisoner of war when there was no end in sight.
     “I never lost faith in the end of the story,” Stockdale said. “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”
     When Collins asked who didn’t make it out, Stockdale replied that it was the optimists. “They were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas,’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”
     “This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
     We now find ourselves at possibly the most crucial crossroads of our lives. One road seems to lead to the promise of the future. The other seems to lead to the devastation of the end. Which one do we choose? Is it possible that each road eventually converges back to meet at another crossroads? Without more information about where each road goes, it is impossible to make an informed choice.
     Perhaps neither of those roads leads to where it seems they go. What happens then? Many, whose optimism has been under constant attack, will shake their heads and walk away from both roads. Some will happily choose one, and others will angrily choose the other. In deciding which road to take, brother will turn against brother, and son will turn against mother. Friendships will crumble; families will splinter. And still, the war of words rages.
     In the Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, a senior angel speaks to an angel named Clarence about a man on earth who was in dire need of angelic help.
     “Splendid,” replied Clarence. “Is he sick?”
     “No, worse,” the senior angel said. “He’s discouraged.”
     That is the place many find themselves today, discouraged, and tired, and angry. Those feelings are so damaging because they can so easily wipe away faith and expel hope. And the ones most affected by a lack of faith and hope are the young ones.
     After yesterday’s turmoil, the sun still rose this morning, and it will rise again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. And with each rising, there is faith and hope in a new day. For society to survive and thrive, we “must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end . . . with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
     I don’t want to go “back to normal” because “normal” is what got us to the place we find ourselves in today. I want to move forward to a new better. It will take courage, learning to get along regardless of differences, mending broken fences, and finding a way to agree to disagree without becoming disagreeable.
     I believe things will all work out. Maybe not as quickly as I would like. Maybe not as wholly as I desire. But they will work out. I am not an optimist. I am not a Pollyanna. I am simply a woman who strives to live each day in faith and with hope.
     If you find yourself in a kind of prisoner-of-war camp today, cling to faith, rely on hope, and don’t give up. The night will end, the sun will rise, and a new day will dawn.

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