It was one of my Grandmother’s favorite quotes. When I would ask her about the minuscule impact that her giving of yesterday’s flatbread to the the sadhu (monk) who would come and clang the wrought iron gate every morning to announce his presence, she would say — “doobte ko tinke ka saharaa’ — “to the one who is drowning (in a whirlpool) in the middle of the river, even a blade of grass floating by seems like a lifeline”.
As you can tell, I never forgot her interpretation of giving. She wasn’t merely giving yesterday’s flatbread – she was giving Hope. She was giving light for another day, or maybe even for a few hours, to a single human being, who would arrive daily in the hope that his hunger would find some relief. She was helping to sustain someone who had chosen the life of detachment — not beggary, mind you — but a conscious, aware choice of total, unconditional surrender to divine sustenance.
There are very few among us who can practice that level of complete faith. Our faith is often an incomplete one, where we think of our spiritual practices as tools in our tool belt. Today, I feel emotionally down, so let me meditate a bit more. Today, I feel really good, so maybe I’ll give my meditation tool a rest in my too-belt. One of my Vedanta teachers describes it as a “faith of convenience”. We employ faith as a tool of bartering with the divine and the universe.
And then we are left wondering why our faith does not work as and when, and in the way, we expect it to. Imagine that we were to only breathe when we found it to be convenient for us to breathe. We wouldn’t last very long, would we? Then why do we expect our intermittent faith to sustain us? I posit that this is where Hope enters our practice. Hope fills the voids and cracks that our incomplete and intermittent faith and half-hearted actions create.
This is not to say that Hope isn’t necessary for the world at large. It is. In Rabindranath Tagore’s famous verse, he says — oh, wait. As I google the quote, I see that many have used ‘hope’ and ‘faith’ interchangeably… “Faith (Hope) is the bird who feels the light and sings while the dawn is still dark”. And then there is Emily Dickinson’s poem which begins with…
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
The practicality of life necessitates that we may need both, faith and hope. When one flounders, the other shores us up. When we lose faith and start drowning in life’s storms, hope steps in and becomes the blade of grass that keeps us afloat. We can then find strength to sing our song while the dawn is still dark. With both hope and faith, we can discover Joy in the gaps between the breaths of our life, and make every season a season of giving.
In the pure spirit of Joy that emerges from a complete faith, we can choose to become harbingers of Hope. Our giving is then complete. That’s a season worth celebrating. What say you?
P.S. Join us for our weekly gathering of a community of faith, hope, joy and giving in #SpiritChat – Sunday, Dec 13 at 9amET / 730pm India. I will bring some tea and fresh flatbread (with a drizzle of caramelized brown sugar) to share. Namaste – @AjmaniK