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 Part 4: Hope

red flowers

Place your feet on floor and focus yourself.  Stretch your arms out and fold them back in as you concentrate on breathing.

Breathe in honesty.
Breathe out gossip
Breathe in community.
Breathe out isolation.
Breathe out despair.
Breathe in hope.

The Turtle in Traffic
by Tom Melchoir
Reprinted with permission of the author and the Burnsville Senior High School Voice.

This fall I began my 31st year of teaching.  I looked forward to the opening workshops.  In the first two hours of my return, I was informed that two of my students from the spring semester had committed suicide.

Chaotic, cynical ghosts haunted me as I drove home.  The pain from the two deaths numbed me.

What a foolish thing to do.  How was this possible?  How could these kids stray so far from bliss and place themselves in harm’s way?  How could they lose their vision?

The traffic stalled.  Semis roared by me, spilling black clouds of smoke over my clouds of gloom; spitting diesel exhaust through my window.  Suddenly, the traffic parted.  I surged ahead, and at that moment I spotted the turtle, isolated in the middle of the highway.

“What are you doing there” I said.  He slipped under me as I drove past.  I saw him again in my rearview mirror—head sucked in, terrified, feet too paralyzed to move.

Should I?  Shouldn’t I?  I hesitated; the traffic was fierce.  It would be very inconvenient.  Of course I should.

I whipped a right at Hennen’s Station, another right on River Drive, down two blocks, another right back to the highway.  In the 20 seconds I had been circling back someone had hit the turtle and flipped him on his back near the curb.

I stopped at the corner, ran out in a gap in traffic and picked him up.  His top shell was a bit crushed and blood seeped out of the cracks in the bottom shell.

Dead, I bet.

I set him on the floor of my car and drove toward the boat landing.  “What a foolish thing to do,” I muttered.  “How could you stray so far from bliss and place yourself in harm’s way?  How could you lose your vision?”

No movement.

Killed by a Michelin.  What a waste!

I carried him down the boat landing and set him on the river’s edge.  I sat on a rock and waited.  Nothing.  Dead, dead.  Betrayed by his dreams.

I nudged him into the water and waited.  Minutes passed, nothing.

Squashed in the wasteland!

Bip.  From the depth of some primeval passion to survive, one tiny bubble of life slipped out of that terrorized shell.  Then another and another.  Suddenly a string of bubbles danced to the surface.

My reptile friend slowly eased out its head to face the reborn world.  He stretched his neck and poked his nostrils into the air.  Realizing his gift, he flailed away with all four legs and slipped into the darkness of the river.

As I walked up the landing, the sun seemed a bit brighter, the world regained some of its purity, and the pain of loss eased just a bit.

Hope is everywhere.  Sometimes it’s easy to see, as in a turtle escaping traffic or the birth of a new baby.  Other times it is far more difficult, almost like hope is hiding.  For example, it is easy to see that wearing braces on your teeth is uncomfortable and can be awkward.  It’s more difficult to see the potential for a great smile or improvement in speech.  Think about a few examples of hope you’ve seen today.  Find signs of spring emerging.  Continue your “annual spiritual” by asking yourself these questions.

When do I feel fully myself?  Least fully myself?

When do I have a special encounter with a friend?  Family member?

When do I experience forgiveness, compassion, justice, courage, joy, gratitude?

How do I feel God present for me?  Feel God absent?


Commit to finding at least one “hidden potential” for hope every day during Lent.

Conclude by praying for peace.

May there be peace in the higher

regions; may there be peace in

the firmament; may there be

peace on earth.

     May the water flow peacefully;

may the herbs and plants grow peacefully;

may all the divine powers

bring unto us peace.

The supreme Lord is peace.

May we be all in peace, peace and only peace;

and may that peace come unto each of us.

     Shanti (Peace). Shanti.  Shanti

            -Hindu from the Vedas

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