Hope is a positively powerful emotion in the human experience. Down through the ages from the beginning of time, it has always been a pivotal factor in delivering positive outcomes, especially in circumstances of great adversity and challenge.
History is replete with countless cases where individuals, communities and countries found themselves in dire circumstances out of which there seemed to be no way. But right at that moment of despair, the reassuring voice of hope stepped in to say there was definitely a way.
In our own post-colonial Caribbean experience, an entertainment icon, revered as a prophet from his heyday in the 1970s until today, preached a powerful message of hope. It was directed primarily to the despairing, the marginalized, and the oppressed who were living in countries comprising what was then commonly referred to as the Third World.
Conscious of the obstacles they faced in their struggle for a better life, the late Bob Marley urged in Three Little Birds, one of his many reggae classics: “Don’t worry about a thing; ‘cause every little thing gonna be all right.”
Hope is a demonstration of abiding faith in the possibilities of the future, despite the challenges of the present. The 50th anniversary of Independence, a significant milestone which we will celebrate tomorrow, finds many Barbadians deeply worried about the future.
Economic and other challenges experienced over the past eight years have resulted in national decline with reduced opportunities for individual and collective advancement. Understandably, there has been diminishing hope.
It was therefore appropriate that Bishop of Barbados and Archbishop of the Anglican Province of the West Indies, The Most Reverend Dr John W.D. Holder, chose hope as the theme of an uplifting sermon he delivered at last Sunday’s National Thanksgiving Service to mark the Golden Jubilee of Independence.
Using as his point of reference an experience of the ancient Jews that occurred some 2,600 years ago and recounted in the Book of Deuteronomy, Dr Holder, a globally recognized Old Testament scholar, drew a comparison with the experience of Barbados today.
He said: “The community was now faced with some daunting challenges in the present, but was hoping for a better future. It seemed as if all they had accumulated, all they had built up over the years was now slipping away.
“And in this context of uncertainty, fear and the loss of faith, there were the sages who produced Deuteronomy refusing to believe that the memories of the past and the experiences of the present could determine every detail of the future. For there was hope.
“The community that produced Deuteronomy held dearly to the conviction that hope has a way of taking the memories of the past and the experiences of the present and shaping them into a powerful force that could assist with the creation of a far better future.
Dr Holder continued: “Hope still has this power. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of our Independence, we need to acknowledge and also embrace the power of hope. . . . For hope enables us to set new goals and pursue them with vigour and determination.”
It has often been said that Barbadians can be a bit too negative at times. It is probably because of the well-known tendency of our people to complain, sometimes endlessly, about problems instead of looking to determine how to become part of the solution.
To be a people of hope requires the adoption of a more positive mind-set, especially when it comes to dealing with individual and national problems. Hope, however, is not alien to the Barbadian personality.
Our National Anthem defines us as a people of hope and also faith. “The Lord has been the people’s guide for past 300 years; with Him still on the people’s side, we have no doubts or fears”. To be a people lacking in hope amounts to a repudiation of the Barbadian spirit which was a defining characteristic of our fore-parents. Indeed, hope underpinned their determination to build the foundation of the generally good life we have enjoyed for most of the first 50 years of Independence.
While it is appropriate that we use the Golden Jubilee of Independence to celebrate our national achievements, it is also important that we use this milestone as an opportunity for introspection. Such soul-searching can serve to rekindle hope, rearrange personal and national priorities and recommit to our nation-building project with renewed purpose in pursuit of the future to which we aspire.
A happy 50th anniversary of Independence, Barbados! We did in the past. With hope, as Archbishop Holder reassures us, we can do it again. The Lord who has been the people’s guide” throughout our history will always be there to guide us.
May God continue to richly bless Barbados!