Hope in the Desert

My back was in agony from a full day of contorting in my seat—as is often typical aboard an airplane. Cancelled flights, long layovers, and a transit from one side of the country to the other had taken its toll and all I could think about was climbing into my bunk on the bus and going to sleep.

The band arranged for Eddie, a volunteer working the show, to pick me up from the airport. Eddie, chipper as could be, was oblivious to my exhaustion (or perhaps he just didn’t care), so incessant chatter filled the cab of his truck. While I honestly would have preferred to engage the company of a mute Uber driver, Eddie’s infectious cheerfulness won out and I engaged with him on what it was like living in a small town in New Mexico.

“In town it’s great,” he started “but it took me years to get used to it. I still…” his voice tailed off.

“What?” I asked.

“I don’t know, brother. It just kind of messes with your head… all this desert.”

I asked for him to clarify what he meant and he continued, “Yeah it’s beautiful and all, but it’s weird that once you leave town there’s nothing.”

Admittedly, I didn’t engage too much with the thought—mainly because I was just too tired. However, the next day our runner began to explain a very similar sentiment. Different town. Different person. Yet, I was again hearing how there was a palpable anxiety that people would experience knowing “once we leave town, there ain’t nothing but sand and scorpions.” Our runner Claudia continued by saying, “Even though I don’t see the desert while in town, it still is scary. Likewise, even if I couldn’t see a neighboring community, just knowing something else is out there would be comforting.”  

The better part of this first week of tour has been spent in the desert. It is remarkable how much this has taught me already about hope. While they did not articulate it in so many words, both of these runners were describing what causes a loss of hope. Eddie lost hope at the thought of needing to drive over 150 miles in order to buy new shoes (true story, which begs the question why in the world we got booked to play that show). Claudia lost hope at the thought of being disconnected from others. She lost hope by feeling alone. If these are true, then the inverse must be as well.

Hope is the sense of knowing that life is not living in a desert of nothingness. Hope is knowing that though the proverbial “cacti” of life dot the landscape, we are not alone. This means that however brief, and however fleeting, whenever we experience glimmers of hope, it is a beacon from beyond connecting us with something bigger. Hope reminds us that we are connected in purpose. Hope reminds us that we are never alone.

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