In Election Season, Surging Hope Amidst the Pandemic

October 11, 2020

By Sister Pauline Gunda

Recently I talked with my little niece Clare, who is 10 years old, and she asked me, “How many do you have?” At first, I did not understand what she was referring to, but then she said, “Here in Kenya, we have xx COVID cases.” I was stunned at the depth to which this pandemic is occupying the minds of all, even innocent children. Later, when I contemplated the paradox of the surging hope I have observed in some places even amid a surging number of infections, it occurred to me that such positive thinking is only possible in people who are able to see and hear hope unfolding around them—or who have learned to do so.

The Israelites’ Exilic period of dislocation from their land, their temple and from all their other treasured heritages is not unlike the reality of our diminished lives today. Israel experienced a deep, sad despondency over the loss of their everyday, well-ordered lives. We too, although we may not be physically uprooted, observe how our normal order of life has changed. We find ourselves in an uncertain phase of existence, trying to figure out in which direction we should “steer the wheels” of our lives.

At such a juncture as this, however, we can borrow a leaf from the prophet Jeremiah’s words to the Israelites. He enjoined them to “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce” (Jer. 29:5). Jeremiah gives us a moment of hope. Building houses and living in them, from my perspective, can be like reviving a dwindling light in an endangered world.

As I watched the coverage of the September 3 general elections in Jamaica, where I live, on Television Jamaica, I was moved by how peacefully the exercise was carried out. In my own country of Kenya, we had experiences of general elections turning into scenes of bloodshed! Here, the voters turned out to cast their votes peacefully and maturely, even in an environment of surging coronavirus cases—clearly a sign that when faced with a common danger, we become brothers and sisters again. This and many other signs continue to teach me that there is hope amid disasters and pandemics.

The Oscar-winning Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o once said: “No matter where you are from, your dreams are valid.” This wisdom played out recently when news came of the nomination of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) to the Democratic presidential ticket. Her father hails from Brown’s Town in St. Ann, Jamaica. What exciting news for this small country! One of the Jamaican newspapers ran a headline that read: “Kamala Harris Ignites Pride in Brown’s Town.” While different sentiments about her selection to be Joe Biden’s running mate may have been spoken, another one that caught my attention was: “To see a Jamaican descendant at the table of decision-making, discussing topics such as race relations, protection of human rights and immigration, means a great deal, not only for Jamaica but globally.”

This, too, is a glimpse of hope in a dangerous time.

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  1. Katie Mindling

    Pauline, Thank you for these insights and reflections. As we approach elections, we pray as you do for a peaceful election in our country. You have seen the contrast and so you know how important it is.

  2. Mary Anne Poeschl, RSM

    Thanks Pauline for your reflections. They spoke to me.

  3. Sr. Carole Temming

    A wonderful article! Thank you!

  4. Rita Valade, RSM

    Pauline…Your reflection of concern and hope touches me deeply. “We find ourselves in an uncertain phase of existence, trying to figure out in which direction we should “steer the wheels” of our lives.” I feel confronted with this during this time of election in the U.S., the loss of any sense of “home” for the Detroit Mercy community as we sell our property and lose easy access to our older and/or infirm sisters… all within the treat of COVID. Thank you for the hope you shared.

  5. Marie McIntyre

    Thank you Sr. Pauline Gunda for that insight into the Jamaican background of Joe Biden’s choice for his vicePresident in The U. S. Miss Harris. We wish them every blessing.
    Our Sisters in Burlingame, California are very concerned for the future leadership in the U.S. They have asked us some of their friends ,Mercy Srs. to join them in a Novena of Prayer for wisdom etc for the people there to guide them in the upcoming elections in November. we can all join in prayer with them.
    I spent 14 years teaching in Primary Schools in the Archdiocese of SanFrancisco from 1959 – 73

  6. Diane Koorie

    Your essay is a glimpse of hope! Thank you.

  7. Jeannine Yockey Burch, Associate on the Mississippi Gulf Coast

    Thank you for your thought provoking story. My husband I, both retired, have been quarantined since March and have canceled trips to see grandchildren in distant states, but have not sunk into: “sad despondency over the loss of (our) everyday, well-ordered lives.” Our children who live nearby have been vigilant about quarantining themselves and their children, allowing them to visit us and us to visit them. We have been grateful that we are retired and enjoy each other’s company, like to read, and our library has created safe ways to access good books, and blessed with a number of grandchildren who live nearby. However, we do miss the distant grandchildren and friends without becoming despondent. I pray every day for those who are separated from their loved ones or have lost loved ones from this insidious disease. Thanks again for prompting me to think and praise God for my blessings!

  8. Sue LaVoie, Companion in Mercy

    Oh! I felt hope and inspiration flow from your pen!

  9. Larretta, RSM

    Thank you, Pauline!

  10. Cathleen Cahill, RSM

    Thank you for this message of hope coming from a fresh perspective.

  11. Sarah Brown

    Thank you so much, Sister Pauline, for sharing! For generously opening your hope and life to us.

  12. Margaret Downing

    Thank you for sharing this perspective. I often think of how fortunate we are in the United States that elections are usually peaceful and transfer of power follows peacefully. So many people globally have experiences which inspire fear. It is my great hope that the election in the US will be an event that helps us to “become brothers and sisters again.”

  13. Marilyn Fanning

    Thank you for pointing out signs of hope. We so need them today!

  14. Maria Klosowski

    Thank you for your message of hope.

  15. Irene Bishop

    Thank your and your niece for sharing

  16. Mary Morey

    Thank you for this reflection. I was especially
    moved by the words ‘surging hope

  17. Mary Morey

    Thank you, Pauline, for this reflection. Your words, ‘surging hope’ are food for thought at this time. I’m also pleased for you and the people of Jamaica that your elections were peaceful.

  18. Jackie Ann Moreau

    Seeing our local everyday blessings helps. Thanks for sharing your experience.
    Today in Portland Maine we have hit 70, the sun is shining, beautiful clouds and trees turning.

    Another sister staying with me for a few days. I’m blest indeed.

  19. Ivy Lyn

    Thank you Sister Pauline!