“For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” – Matthew 13:17
What if I told you that a long time ago, millions of people hoped that you would exist?
I happened to tune in to WABE in Atlanta tonight toward the tail end of an interview with Colman Domingo, an actor in the new film If Beale Street Could Talk. The movie deals with themes of racism and justice, but as the interviewer Lois Reitzes notes, has a tone of hope. What Domingo said in response grabbed me by the throat:
“. . . And we understand the systems that are in place that are meant to oppress, to keep people disenfranchised. But that being said, that there is love and there is hope for a future – to keep going, to come together, find a way out of no way, and even if the cards are stacked up against you, there is still hope – for your children, for your children’s children, to not give up. It’s the reason why America is America . . . I know that I am a descendant of slaves, and if it wasn’t for their hardships and strife and troubles and fortitude to keep going, I wouldn’t be here. So I am their hope, I am their dreams . . .”
Most us have heard (but don’t nearly appreciate enough) about all of the people who over the course of history have died so that we could have a shot at living. But we don’t give those dead nearly enough credit, and we don’t live nearly as well as we should as a result.
If we’re bad at honoring the deaths of those who came before us, we’re worse at honoring the challenges of those who lived long lives in hope for the future we now occupy.
We should think of the millions of people who *survived* so that we could live. Those slaves Domingo mentioned put up with captivity and humiliation and abuse day after day in part, you have to think, because they believed their descendants would have it better. The victims of hundreds of genocides, tortures, and wars survived in part because they believed in a future for their descendants.
We, to them, are that future. We are the hoped-for ones. In some strange sense, we made it possible for them to survive just as they made it possible for us to live.
If that doesn’t make us want to work harder (and hope higher for the *next* future), I don’t know what will.
Intellectual Influence: This is by no means an original insight. I’ve heard before about how “past generations hoped for my generation to exist, bla, bla” but this interview brought it home to me in a new and true way. A recent sermon on Matthew 13 (quoted above) also likely jogged my thinking on the hope of past generations.