A few weeks ago, I wrote about a commercial developed by Guinness. The commercial said something important about friendship and empathy.
Recently, I saw another commercial from Allstate. It begins with a shot of a man swimming in the ocean while a little girl’s voice says, “There are man–eating sharks in every ocean … but we still swim. Every second, somewhere in the world lightning strikes, but we still play in the rain. Poisonous snakes can be found … but we still go looking for adventure.”
The commercial ends with the same little girl saying, “Because I think deep down we know, with all the bad things that can happen in life, they can’t stop us from making our lives good.” Over the final shot, we see the words, “People live for good.”
The first time I saw the commercial, I didn’t just like it, I found it moving. To be honest, I wasn’t sure why at first. It took me a little while to figure out what I liked so much about this commercial.
What touched me in this commercial is the sense of defiant hope in it. The commercial acknowledges that lots of bad things happen in life. We all know it to be true. It says something true about the human condition, that life is not just a bowl of cherries, but that there is pain and sorrow intermingled in all our lives.
But there are still good things. Maybe more good than bad. And maybe, just maybe, it goes on to suggest, there’s way more chance of there being more good than bad if we don’t let the threat of the bad deter us from living life and seeking and creating good.
All of this is made more poignant because it’s spoken by a child whose voice testifies both to the fragility of this life we share and also to the fact that, by speaking those words, that fragile voice becomes brave, strong, and courageous.
I believe hope is like that. Hope is both fragile and powerful. It is fragile because it exists against all odds and in the face of much that seems hopeless. It is powerful because it creates new possibilities, and as it is shared, it multiplies.
All of this reminds me of a quotation often attributed to either Martin Luther or St. Francis: “If the world were going to end tomorrow, I would plant a tree today.” I’ve always loved that affirmation. It says that what we see is not all there is. There is more happening beneath the surface of life, and it takes effort sometimes to see the depths which are there.
In that sense, hope is at the heart of any kind of faith. In the midst of all that life can throw at us, we defiantly proclaim that there is more to life than pain and sorrow. There is meaning to our lives on this planet. Life is not just one meaningless random act after another. For Christian faith, we trust deeply that no matter what may come, God will have the last word, and it will be a good word, a word of life in the midst of death.
That promise of God to bring all things to a good end invites us to live today with hope, even in the most difficult of circumstances.
Not optimism, but hope. Optimism assumes that things will just keep getting better. Optimism looks for the silver lining while ignoring the storm clouds.
But hope looks more realistically at life. Hope testifies that whether things get better or worse, ultimately God’s good will for us and all creation will prevail. Rooted in that promise, we can take action today, standing with the good, opposing evil, and doing what we can. We do all of this not because we expect or need to save the world, but rather because we believe that since God is at work bringing light into the darkness and life in the midst of death, we are free to throw ourselves into taking care of the little corner of the world in which we find ourselves.
This kind of hope is fragile, brave, and it invites us to action. I think that’s why I like – and am moved by – this commercial. And I hope you are, too.
Yme Woensdregt is Pastor at Christ Church Anglican in Cranbrook