by Sister M. Faith Cosky
A few weeks ago I stopped at the Dollar Store on my way to Sunday Mass. The young clerk pointed to the Detroit Free Press on the counter and asked me if I wanted to buy one. As I said no, I glanced at the headlines which read, “Detroit,’67, 50 Years.” The clerk then told me that there was a lot of history in it. I smiled and said, “I know, I lived through it.” His eyes bugged out as he momentarily stared at me before we finished the transaction.
Later at Mass, the gospel was about the weeds and the wheat growing together. I thought of how it must have been in the City of Detroit. Things were simmering long before the riots of 1967. The weeds of segregation and injustice made for a hopeless situation for many people in the inner city. But some good did come from the ashes: one year later that Eleanor Josaitis and Fr. William T. Cunningham cofounded Focus Hope. The building was located on 12th Street near where the first shot was fired when the riots began. The Center was founded to help overcome racism, poverty and injustice. Today it continues to be a source of hope and training for young adults.
In my ministry as a chaplain, I become aware of seemingly hopeless situations in people’s lives. As I engaged in a women’s story, I learned that her childhood was one of deprivation and fear of her father. When she was 12 years old, she would hide a Bible under her pillow before she went to bed. She said it wasn’t even hers; it had someone else’s name in it but some kind woman had given it to her. Her faith began in desperation, and to this day she has survived incredible odds. The image of a little girl and her Bible is hard to forget.
We offer a weekly spirituality group for patients in the hospital and one of the topics is hope. It’s usually a good discussion because everyone hopes for something. One particular session there was a young man who did not participate verbally but he did answer the questions in writing. Some questions were: “What gives you hope? Who do you talk to when you want to feel hopeful? And, what gives you meaning?” The group ended and some papers were left on the table. As I gathered them up I noticed following among the written questions and answers,
“What gives you meaning? I have no meaning.” I stared at the response and to this day it still haunts me knowing who wrote it. What is it like to have no meaning?
Many days I find hope in hidden and obvious ways—in people, their stories and the images I can’t seem to forget. It is then that the Prayer of St. Francis takes on a fresh meaning for me. “Where there is despair, let me sow hope.”