Don Paglia | Marriage and Family Counseling. Constellations Workshops


Tip # 100:

 “The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.”                                                                 

John Buchan

I love that this SECOND TO LAST Fishing Tip has to do with hope. Hope is not just some idle wish or a “wouldn’t it be nice If only…” sort of thing. Hope is an active engagement with an eye on the goal. It’s working at a soup kitchen while envisioning a world where everyone has enough to eat. Hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain outcome. It’s the strength of someone’s desire that causes them to continue to take action(s) toward that desired outcome.

A long time dear friend who died a few years back, was such a person of hope. Without fanfare he lived his hopeful way in such a way that no one would have called overly religious or pious. What he often said and did was profoundly holy and religious, however. He was a faith-filled person living out his absolute conviction that each of us shares a common humanity, and therefore all people are entitled to a common and equal dignity.

The now deceased priest, writer, and sociologist, Andrew Greeley, believed that being Catholic has little to do with how one practices his or her religion. Rather it has everything to do with seeing the world in a particular way. Greeley maintained that Catholics see the world as, well, Catholic. An authentic Catholic person is compelled to see the sacredness of each and every individual person by virtue that each of us is created by the Creator.

This means that Catholics do actions of charity and social justice work not because those we assist are Catholic; rather we so do because we are Catholic. This isn’t an exclusive idea. A Methodist, or Jew or Muslim or any spiritually centered people do what they do for the reasons they hold in their hearts, as well. One’s inner convictions have everything to do with activists seeing this intimate connection with all other fellow humans, regardless of any common shared faith. It is our common shared humanity that prevails and where we are able to facilitate the message: hope springs eternally.  

Poet Alexander Pope in An Essay on Man (1732) first coined the phrase, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” Originally we find it in the Book of Proverbs where the author describes that human nature always finds fresh cause for optimism.

My friend, I previously mentioned, saw his own shared connection with each and every person he encountered. He lived his life advocating for the voiceless and the down-trodden, and by helping whoever needed help. He did so quietly and without need for acknowledgement. He did so because, for him, it was the “logical thing to do.” It was an “of course” way of living.

Whenever we do what needs to be done our actions enroll others into this work and/or into similar work, as well. If we are reflective people we think “How should life be?” Then we ask, “Why isn’t it this way?” Finally we take on the next logical question: “What are we to do to repair it.” This gives us purpose and direction.

The world is a little less for having lost my old friend. And we are better for having had him the time we did. We are still here and there is still plenty to do. My friend lives within me and the many others he touched. Each of us are still alive in order to carry on the good work that must be completed. It is said that we are either part of the problem, or part of the solution. To not step up, to remain passive, and not assist in ways we can, is to become part of the problem.

Hope is the essence of being American; it is our stance as this young nation takes on doing amazing things. With the exception of Native Americans, we are all immigrants. Some are more recent immigrants; some go back quite a ways. All of us are here recently, or our ancestors came here before us for a better life – to escape persecution and oppression, to raise a family, to make a difference – to be part of the American Dream. Initially many found it to be oppressive and had to deal with very difficult obstacles while starting out. But they persevered. Unfortunately many new arrivals face these same problems today.

Our ancestors persevered – they persevered for us. They had hope for us. We, who are their descendants, come from courageous people – people who sacrificed so we could have a better life. Many of our earlier ancestors did not get to enjoy the fruits of their sacrifices. But they carried on in the hope that we – their legacy – would have that better life even if they could not.

I am aware that I get to live my ridiculously amazing and blessed life because my ancestors got on steam ships in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and came to America. They endured hardships and heartaches. How I live my life today is my way of honoring them. My family and I are the endowment they laid out for our benefit. They hoped for this.

Whenever I go into a neighborhood grocery store or a small bodega I can envision my own Italian parents and grandparents in these Asian or Hispanic people or first generation immigrants who are now working in their labor intense family businesses. I experience a family sacredness present in the ordinariness of these family enterprises and of these hope filled people. I am profoundly touched as I am reminded of my own heritage. It also makes me feel compelled to welcome these newcomers to our shores.

Because I know my ancestors were helped by others who at that time were more grounded in American society when my people first arrived, I am bound today to tangibly support the seekers of our American life. We know many are presently being oppressed but this is a huge mistake. America becomes only richer by including – never excluding – the many cultures and the rich diversity of peoples into our commonly shared humanity called America.

If this global pandemic has shown us one thing it is that this Corona virus treats all humankind the same. We do know that the poor (too often it is people of color) have done worse in this pandemic largely due to the lack of health care in general they are afforded and to the limited resources they have to be healthier.

This latest emergency relief bill is intended to help the poor and those who have struggled the most from the economic problems stemming from this pandemic. It is financial aid to the people at the bottom rather than taking on a trickle-down theory that did not and does not work. This is a stark shift in our approach toward serving the masses. There is still much more to do. But as a start it does give me hope.

America, when we are at our best, is a place we can be proud of. We have always been a resilient people. We have utilized our American ingenuity to make our world better and to restore us after tragedy and setbacks. We falter, however, whenever we allow greed and selfishness to prevail. Most of this comes about out of fear. Right now we are seeing a terrible racist assault on Asian-Americans. It is an ignorant and unacceptable injustice. Whenever we allow fear to take over and think it is everyone for himself/herself we fall very short of our ideals. 

We are not going to make our nation perfect, but we can improve and make it better. The Japanese have a term called: Kaizen. It is a term meaning “change for the better” or “continuous improvement.” It is what Japanese businesses have built their strategies upon regarding processes of continuously improving all operations and all employees.

Ironically Kaizen was brought to Japan by American business and quality-management teachers, and most notably it became a part of The Toyota Way. Today it has spread throughout the world. With my work with married couples I get them to surrender romantic notions of achieving marital bliss and notions of living happily ever after, to this idea of each partner striving for continuous improvement and of growing in his and her capacity to love the other more masterfully. 

This is my hope for us all. It is my hope for our society: that we learn to love in ways we have yet to master. My hope is that this is your hope, as well. May we join together in a reinvigorated perpetual series of occasions for hope.