In Election Season, Surging Hope Amidst the Pandemic

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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.