Hope

Like most of my fellow Americans, I witnessed history this week. And like most of them, I watched it eight hours after it happened. God bless the USA and our DVR.

Actually, we taped Tuesday’s Presidential Inauguration so that we could watch the festivities unfold as a family. Normally the girls pass on any show that doesn’t feature lots of puppies, ponies, and best friends singing about rainbows, but they’d watch just about anything to get out of going to bed, so we curled up on the couch later that evening together and watched Barack Obama being sworn in as our country’s 44th president.

Hoping to educate Rainey and Lilla about freedom, diversity and the beauty of digitally recording live television, I prefaced the event with a speech of my own. I spoke passionately with my hands, pausing at the right moments for dramatic effect, and said “inaugural” and “Barack” a lot because they’re really fun to say. In lieu of a red power tie, I commanded the room with my pink slippers.

And Rainey yawned while Lilla asked her to pass the popcorn.

I took that as my cue, so I sat down and started the recording. The girls watched the presidential motorcade parade toward the Capitol and wondered if the VIPs inside the black stretch Cadillac were throwing candy to the crowd.

“Probably just Tootsie Rolls,” I teased. Even if they don’t understand the meaning of the word “recession,” my daughters know cheap candy when it’s thrown at them.

Then they eyed Malia and Sasha Obama as they walked down the steps of the Capitol building and took their privileged seats for the special ceremony.

“Can you please be President next, Mama?” Rainey requested.

“Why?” I asked, thinking our country’s come a long way but nowhere near ready for someone like me to be in charge.

“Because I want to live in the White House,” she said.

“I want to live there, too!” Lilla agreed.

Then they started arguing over the 35 bathrooms, swimming pool, and bowling alley, and I finally settled it by telling them we’d just split the White House down the middle with masking tape like we do here in our more humble headquarters.

That seemed to quiet the debate, but by the time the presidential oath was taken and power transferred hands peacefully, the girls were too busy balancing pillows on their heads and building birds with Legos to notice the enormous significance. So we skipped the remainder of the broadcast and shuffled them off to bed, figuring democracy is best in small doses.

After they were asleep, I caught the rest of the inaugural speech and then read my email and checked in on Facebook. I received lots of messages from friends inspired and excited about the future, friends who are ready to embrace change. “A new day is here,” many of them cried.

And surprisingly, it made me incredibly sad. Not because I’m a huge fan of our outgoing president (I’m not), and not because I disagreed with my friends’ sentiments (I don’t). I’m eager to see the different direction President Obama will take this country, and that we elected the first black man to the highest position of leadership makes me terribly proud to be an American. But I’m bummed because amidst the pomp and ceremony of the day, I missed the chance to teach my girls the real meaning of hope.

In a country fiercely divided across party lines and by hot political topics, all of us are united by the strong desire to live lives free from trouble and adversity. We assume it’s our God-given right as human beings, written in the Constitution of our hearts. But we put our hope of avoiding pain in the strangest places. People, politics, power. Money, motherhood, marriage. I’ve put my hope in all of those things, and I’ve been let down by every single one of them.

My girls will be tempted to do the same, to think that life will be kinder to them if they choose this person or take that job or buy this car. If they do, they will face the harsh, unavoidable reality that calamity still strikes. People still fail. And the almighty dollar still disappoints. They will ultimately discover that anyone or anything promising to save us from our nightmares is really just a counterfeit savior hijacking our hope.

But maybe they can avoid that by putting their hope where, after counting on countless counterfeits, I’ve finally put mine. It’s not in President Obama; no matter how inspiring, handsome, or charismatic, he is, after all, still human like the rest of us. No, my hope is in Hope himself — the One who makes a promise and actually delivers, the One who says what he means and means what he says, the One who never leaves office and always loves me. Markets may crash, wars may rage, and presidents may change, but my hope will not. I’ve got too much riding on it to put it anywhere else.

Especially if I’m running for office in four years. Maybe with a little help from my pink slippers, I can convince the girls to hit the campaign trail with me in the morning.

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