BY EMILIE HAERTSCH | December 20, 2017
In Anne of Green Gables, Marilla Cuthbert told Anne that “to despair is to turn your back on God.” If this is true, then I turned away from God in 2017. After the 2016 presidential election and the subsequent attacks this year on health care, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, Muslims, and more, I lost faith in goodness. The world seemed to grow darker each month until I found myself entirely disaffected. Like the Psalm says, “tears [had] been my food day and night,” and I struggled to find God.
Like many supporters of social justice, I grew weary as 2017 dragged on. I took to the streets again and again, wrote letters to my legislators, and organized with fellow people of faith. But the onslaught was overwhelming. We were being carpet-bombed. By the time we had responded to one maneuver, several other attacks on marginalized groups had occurred.
As I sat at my desk all day each news notification made me flinch. I felt like going to bed and pulling the covers over my head. How could we possibly counter all of these attacks? And where was God in all of this?
This fall, however, a light returned. My first child, a boy named Leo, was born on Halloween. And somehow he carried with him hope.
My husband and I found out we were expecting in March. We were thrilled to grow our family, though the timing dampened our excitement. We wondered what type of world our child would enter. Amidst police brutality, war-mongering, and marginalization of the poor, how could we keep our child safe? This was a scary time to have a baby.
But, on October 31 Leo entered the world and my feelings quickly changed.
He provided an opportunity to turn inward, and in doing so I realized that love and innocence still exist in the world in many places. Even the president of the United States cannot take that away. I also acknowledged that I had been attempting to fix things – on my own schedule – and when I didn’t see immediate results I was inclined to give up.
But Leo has not made me turn away from the world. He has refreshed me. I may not check the news 20 times a day with a baby at my breast (better for my own sanity), but I feel more committed than ever to working for change. And now I can involve Leo in these efforts, teaching him to advocate for peace and justice and be a source of good. Perhaps I cannot fix the world’s problems alone, but generations and generations of workers can, with the help of God.
In his innocence, Leo reminded me that God is always there. I have renewed strength to continue fighting for justice, and an increased awareness of the goodness that still exists in the world. A child brought me back from despair. This Advent season I have hope.
Emilie Haertsch is a writer and editor working in the nonprofit sector. A former Jesuit Volunteer, she served as a community organizer with People of Faith Against the Death Penalty in North Carolina. She recently graduated the Contemplative Leaders in Action program and completed her capstone on teaching memoir writing to senior citizens. Emilie lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband, baby son, cat, dog, and turtle.