President Obama’s autobiography, The Audacity of Hope,
is interestingly and aptly named. The word “audacity” is often
associated with insolence or unwelcomed bravado, calling to
mind familiar statements like, “He had the audacity to call me
stingy!” or “The audacity of some people!” So, to apply
audacity to hope is pretty audacious, to say the least.
Yet, the audacity of hope is undeniable. Its tenacity is
seen clearly in almost every inmate within the walls of this
penitentiary. No matter how great or small our crimes and prison
terms, the vast majority of us here—and throughout the entire
world—harbor some degree of Hope even while faced with
seemingly insurmountable odds: appellate court deadlines,
strained relationships with families on the outside, coping with
unruly cellmates, avoiding the landmines of prison politics, and,
especially, surviving the psychological bruises of incarceration.
Every inmate had some measure of Hope and it’s
encouraging to witness the moment when that Hope blossoms
into something fresh, productive, and praiseworthy. Hope is
manifested when patience and perseverance pays off: passing a
GED test, cancer cells going into remission after countless
sessions of chemotherapy, or returning to court for a reduction of
sentence. The manifestation of Hope is always a good thing.
On the other hand, Hope lost is immediately tragic and
unmistakable. A person who loses Hope decays and wastes
away in ways sometimes in-describable. Who isn’t all too
familiar with the terrible outcome from friends or loved ones
who lost their Hope? The loss of Hope, in and of itself, is tragic
because such a great loss can only lead to more tragedy.
Sometimes with the gravest of consequences.
Various derailments in my own life should have, long
ago, led to demise. Faced with failure upon failure upon, yet
another failure, I’ve often been tempted to silence the
thunderheads of despair raging with the marrow of my being and
just “end it all.” But, Hope cleaves to me with an audacity I can
only describe as divine because no matter what tribulations assail
me Hope simply refuses to lose me to despair. Like an attentive
and sympathetic mother, Hope plants silvery kisses up on my
failures and dresses the wounds and battle scares in preparation
for another trying and turbulent date. “Don’t be afraid,” Hope
soothes. “You can overcome this.”
I’ve no need to force Hope into action or maintaining it
balance. It is as unconscious an act as putting my shoes on every
morning. Like divine rain, it just comes. And I live to fight
another day. Strengthened, renewed, and reassured.
The Hope that resides with me runs the gamut.
Sometimes it’s life-altering, like the Hope that ever-changing
laws will open the door to freedom, so I can be reunited with
family and be the father I was meant to be. Other times, my
Hope comes down to petty nuances like anticipating an extra tray
on pizza day, or my ultimate and perhaps silliest Hope as of late,
the Hope that pure sugar be put in the commissary so we can all
enjoy a good cup of tea without anyone abusing the privilege by
What’s this nonsense about freedom, reuniting with
family, and an extra pizza tray? And pure sugar!
Why! The audacity of some people!
Yet, there it is. Hope. As real as the wind and as evident
as a seedling waiting for the spring thaw.
Where does such audaciousness come from anyway?
From what womb is born the ability to siphon courage to
challenge the unthinkable and plant a conquering flag into enemy
It’s a mystery, Hope. A hidden and dynamic force that’s
shaped mankind since the dawn of time. Every culture on Earth
is familiar with overcoming the overwhelming and undermining
the un-desirable. It’s just a part of who we are as people. And
it’s not just relegated to inmates at a maximum security prison in
the Tucson desert.
As tragedy and chaos are indiscriminate in their
destruction, Hope is not partial to “favorites” when it comes to
rebuilding, rekindling, and reinventing. Hope belongs to all of
us; Hope lives in all of us. And, when allowed to nurse us back
to proper health and balance, Hope gives us the strength to face
down the unimaginative.
But, only if we continue to seek out its silvery kisses.