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  • Mark Pomeroy

Stubborn Hope



Yesterday a neighbor cycled by as I was watering the trees. He stopped and we chatted for a while, and at length he mentioned the rising crime rate. He had just watched the local news.

“It seems like it all changed so suddenly,” he said.

We visited for a few more minutes, then I went to turn off the water. Across the street, a woman trailed two young children who had scootered ahead. A guy was walking his dogs.

No gunfire. No street racing. Most of Portland feels like this, at least most of the time. Usually calm. Which might surprise some folks who don’t live here, and a few who do. News, after all, usually means bad news.

That said, certain parts of the city are a bit more dangerous these days. Pockets of palpable tension and suffering. Discarded syringes, erratic movements, the occasional random assault. There’s reason for concern.

It had all been building for many years though, from long before the pandemic. It only seemed sudden.

But here in the fall of 2022, after all the intensity of the past few years, what about the kids? They’re part of this endeavor, they’re breathing the same air. And it’s no surprise that some of them are struggling to find hope.

They witnessed, especially at the pandemic’s start, how quickly the reality of our underlying issues reared up and snarled. And they saw, as the weeks and months passed, how a fair number of adults in their society quickly succumbed to reflexive judgments, intolerance, and cynicism.

When I step into a high school classroom or onto a soccer field, I still encounter kids learning and wanting to learn. Kids connecting, working hard. Smart kids, cheeky kids, tenacious kids. Kids still trying to build their lives in spite of so much chatter and stress.

There are certainly more kids these days who are straining to see the point of it all, and who are dealing with their parents’ or guardians’ anxieties and addictions. But this is their world also, they know, at least most of them know, and they aren’t going to just curl up and embrace bleakness each day. They’d rather tap some courage and fight for a saner, more just society. For one thing, they strongly oppose those who, given what we’ve long known about the burning of fossil fuels, would continue treating our planet as a dump.

Many of these kids, I should add, are also kind.

So where do I, an occasionally cantankerous, nature-loving, social media-questioning, grizzled middle aged writer come in?

No matter how many startling headlines I read, or how many rude or reckless people I might come across during a week, or how many signs of nature’s distress I note, I can’t give up. One reason? The kids are indeed watching.

There are many of us — millions, all over the world — who still believe in, and often see, the symbols of goodness. There’s nothing delusional about that. I see people each day here in Portland and beyond who resist the easy violence and immaturity that have become so popular. I notice how they usually don’t call much attention to themselves. They aren’t incessantly seeking attention or praise. They believe, at least part of them believes, that we can become more respectful of the planet and of each other. They know it won’t be easy to wean ourselves off certain behaviors, but through thousands of small, intelligent acts often flecked with grace and good humor, they’ll continue striving. They’re stubborn in their hope.

A teacher of mine once paused in the middle of class and said, “Choice is a precious tool.” I always remembered that sentence, the crispness of it. The resonance, too.

In these times it’s not too grandiose to say that the future of our American experiment — our human experiment — depends on our daily choices.

We have to find hope in ourselves in order for our kids to have hope.

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