Binging on hope

I'm done. Well, kind of ... I still have grading to do. But, essentially, like the students who grew tired and delirious as they prepared and stressed out about finals, the day has come when I don't need to show up with my pretty face to be present to others. Now it's time to binge.

As an introvert, I long for the moments when I can tune out and restore my energy with simple, do-it-myself or with-a-small-group activities. With things like praying in the early morning silence, to a solitary commute or to taking the long way to get to one part of school to another, my ability to be present and outgoing intimately depends on the amount of space and depth I was able to or will be able to cultivate.

I read, I listen, I watch. I read posts on social media and articles in my newsfeed. I listen to songs friends share with me. I am still trying to finish the audiobook of Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton. And I watch. I watch a lot of television programming, not on a TV, but on my laptop as I am tempted to scroll through emails, do more work, research a random curiosity, or message a friend a number of states away.

What a month! As I reflect on my post-election-results thoughts to the most recent Electoral College decision, I follow the points of deep desolation and the points of true consolation as I line up how I have paid attention to how the spirit has shown up in my life.

"Wrecked" may be a good word to describe how utterly depleted and in shock I have been. From witnessing the American desire for change to withstanding the way in which we want it achieved, I come to terms with an end of an era. I am tempted by the invitation to mourn the loss of civility, dialogue, inclusion, human tenderness and bold audacity for reconciliation, particularly when, not the President-elect, but others cut off relationship and express themselves violently around me.

I know it's Advent. I know Christmas is here ... and yet, I am in a spiritual Good Friday and Holy Saturday experience, where I remain in disbelief of the suffering, paralyzed in the fear — and simply feeling helpless.

I try to be present to the gift of this season's rich contemplation of Mary and Joseph's pilgrimage in the time of Caesar Augustus. I sit and allow Jesus to show up in my life as a helpless, grinning baby whose parents are exhausted. I sit and smell, touch, hear and practically taste the relief — and the anxiety — of tough days ahead while trying to feel my way through this moment. My breath is taken, not by awe, but by sheer disbelief and disgust of the trials that got us here in the first place.

And in those moments, when what has previously been known to give me life ceases to bear fruit, I turn to my laptop. I watched "Call Me Francis," a miniseries now streaming on Netflix. Oh how brilliant God interrupts my "oh, woe is me" moment! I binge on these four episodes and follow Pope Francis' life as a person gifted with a sense of unwavering hope. I am brought to tears. I try to get away from the paradox of joy amidst suffering, so I go to yet a bigger screen and watch Disney's new animated film, "Moana." It is a story of true reconciliation, restoration and healing, so again, I weep. I wept for the joy of seeing a "Disney princess" that was her own unique self, separate from one singular love relationship to a unity of all relationships including relationships with our common home, the land, the water.

Oh, God, you must be here. And you call me. As the Golden Globe-nominated featured song goes:

. . . Every turn I take, every trail I track
Every path I make, every road leads back
To the place I know, where I cannot go
Though I long to be

See the line where the sky meets the sea it calls me
And no one knows, how far it goes
If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me
One day I'll know, if I go there's just no telling how far I'll go . . .

Can I say that President Barack Obama, Pope Francis and Moana give me hope? Is that weird? I'm sure. Is it true? Yes.

From Obama's audacity to organize people around good, common desires, ability to remain calm and measured in his speech, and desire seek to understand of multiple perspectives ...

 ... to the pope's commitment to his friends, los pobres, and his willingness to enter into the chaos with the Gospel and lead with the gift of Eucharist and unity to people who have experienced so much exclusion and violence ...

... and to Moana's call and eagerness to be loyal to Truth in Love from the experience of a leader coming to age in a time of severe crisis and desolation ...

... to God made incarnate in the very life of the child Jesus who grew up tutored by parents who might have felt the wrath of community judgment and exclusion to simply go on to be-friend people at the margins of a society that values everything but the human person ...

Yes. These are the stories that interrupt my "oh, woe is me" moments in this time of deep pain and uncertainty. And if grace would continue to have it, I will continue to binge more and more on the hope these stories present to me and gift me with tears of joy in the Good News.

[Jocelyn A. Sideco is a retreat leader, spiritual director and innovative minister who specializes in mission-centered ministry. She directs the Community Service and Social Justice office at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco. Visit her online ecumenical ministry, In Good Company, at or email her at]

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