Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said, “This could be a
good time! There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and
swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on
to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer
greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let
go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes
open, and our heads above the water.
And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in
history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. For
the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.
The time of the one wolf is over. Gather yourselves!
Banish the word ‘struggle’ from your attitude and your vocabulary. All
that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
— Prophecy, Hopi Elders, 1980
In a conversation with my brother Whitney a couple of days ago, he mentioned that the sister of one of his colleagues at the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York City had written a letter to Barack Obama, and proceeded to read it to me. That woman’s name is Rebecca Hammann, a beloved middle-school science teacher in Fairfield, California. Rebecca is apparently the greatest and most inspiring kind of teacher and has a heart of huge, even legendary, proportions. Yet the clear love of her life and very heart of the heart of her passion is her 2 1/2 year-old adoptive daughter, Lucy.
Just months ago, Rebecca received a conclusive diagnosis of terminal cancer, and learned that she does not have long to live. When the days of one so alive are all at once so shortly numbered, and yet heart still bursts with a sacred love that knows no bounds, what is she to do? Rebecca Hammann sat down in November to write a letter to Barack Obama. I immediately felt to share her letter with you, and the President’s response. We are all in this together, and even having wandered together for so long through the valley of shadows, I feel hope dawning. Here and now.
Dear President-Elect Obama,
For the last year or so I have felt as if the world was falling apart. Our system is based on buying more than we need, more cheaply than the true costs. We believe that we deserve comfort and ease and material things that our Earth cannot afford to give us. That is why I hoped so much that you would be elected. You bring hope and true leadership to this country and this world. There is a chance, now, for my two-year-old daughter to live in a world of beauty and love instead of the chaos and greed I had begun to imagine for her.
She is a glorious child, full of life and love and humor and she alone is worth changing the world for. You must not falter. I know in my head that there are millions of children to protect; even adults who have created this mess are worthy. But I must ask you for her in particular. The day after your election I learned that I do not have much time. A seven-year-old cancer has spread to my lungs and brain and will prevent me from taking part in the changes that must occur. So I am begging you to lead this world with all your heart and mind, to not take the easy path and to never let the rest of us take it either. This is a lot to ask of you, I know. Our entire paradigm must shift. Our decisions have been based on material possessions and comforts. Even mine. I just decided a few weeks ago to try to live without my own car. I realized that I must be part of the solution now before it is too late. But my tiny realization must be magnified a million times if it is to save our beautiful Earth. Our lives must change. We simply cannot sustain what we are currently doing.
My hope is that you are honest and courageous enough to lead us in the direction we must go. You have two beautiful daughters yourself. You know there isn’t a moment to lose.
But your task is daunting. It is not something you can do alone. You will need to convince the people of this country and in this world that they need to and can change. If anyone can do this, it is you. In a culture of lies and convenience and ease, you have the ability to say the truth clearly and, I hope, the people of this country have the willingness to hear your words.
The changes we must make will require almost overwhelming amounts of courage and hope-and that is what you inspire in us.
My darling Lucy can do without most of what we have grown accustomed to- the material possessions and the comforts. But she needs a healthy Earth and a thoughtful self-sacrificing humankind willing to act for our future generations no matter how difficult.
Please, from the bottom of my heart, don’t give up this fight. If you could meet my daughter Lucy, you would know why you cannot. And there are millions of Lucys in this world.
Thank you for the letter that you wrote to me on behalf of your daughter. I was moved by your sense of hope and purpose.
You described what makes Lucy unique and glorious, and then ended by saying that “there are millions of Lucys in this world.” I was struck by the seeming contradiction, but of course it’s true – we all know that there are hundreds of millions of children, and yet each is unique.
Just like you, I try every day to build a better world for my daughters, and to make sure they are ready to enjoy it – that their personalities are shaped by love, knowledge, compassion, a sense of honor, and the free spirit that my mother always nurtured in me. While I can’t imagine the anguish you feel knowing that Lucy will grow up without you, I am profoundly honored to be part of the hope that buoys you today.
You are right to be hopeful, because our children face a future of limitless possibility. We know that a sustainable way of life is essential to our children and grandchildren. But beyond that, the quest for sustainability that you described with such eloquence and passion is integral as well, because it is a powerful unifier, motivating peoples and nations to act in concert so that all may benefit.
I have every confidence that your daughter will grow up to be a part of this, living out the principles that have motivated you and which will live on within her. My heart tells me Lucy will play a part in creating the change you and I seek. My faith tells me that you will be smiling down on us the whole time.
God bless Rebecca, and Lucy. God Bless our President and his family. Let us tend to that small flicker of Hope that remains alive, in ourselves and in one another, tenderly and with the greatest vigilance. We might all be surprised.