Find hope at the end of 2021

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Last December, I remember sitting in a cafe and looking across the street at a window. A sign caught my eye that read, “2020: you’re drunk. Go home.”

Well, it’s like we can say the same about 2021. The light we all long to see at the end of the proverbial tunnel continues to elude us. And the cultural air still seems to carry a lot of hate, anger, disappointment and fatigue. Yet amid the rubble of the past two years, we still hope for better days.

One of my graduate school professors memorable wrote that we human beings are “sense junkies.” In short, no matter what situation we find ourselves in, we always want to make sense of things. In our current cultural moment, I would say that we are not just “junkies of the senses”, we are “junkies of hope”. We long for hope.

As I’m always looking for signs of hope here in Washington, I was drawn to a restaurant called Farm 12 in Puyallup. To some Washingtonians, Puyallup means rural and small town America. And while there is some truth to that, it also has a growing entrepreneurial (and foodie) swagger. Farm 12 put an exclamation mark on that with its cakes, cookies, pastries in the bakery and burgers, salmon and rib eye in the restaurant.

Yet, as incredible as the dining experience at Farm12 is, it is the outdoor, community-driven energy that the restaurant has become known for that I find striking. During the dark days of the pandemic in 2020, Farm 12 started something called Cake Day. The restaurant chose Cake Day every Wednesday, when it unveils a new cake flavor. It was a success in the community. It was Farm 12’s way of telling the community, “We see you. We know things are tough. You’re not alone!”

After visiting the restaurant several times, I noticed the neighboring building called Step By Step. Step By Step, I found out, is a nonprofit organization that started Farm 12 to help mothers who find themselves in incredibly difficult and often seemingly desperate situations. For 24 years, Step By Step has supported mothers at risk to help them get back on their feet, and in doing so, has created a place where women can thrive when hope was lost. By saving women, families are saved. Step By Step’s work truly makes a difference in families and breathes new life into communities.

While there is a myriad of things in our world right now that can make us feel depressed or angry, I see Farm 12 and Step By Step as a beacon in the middle of a storm. It tells me that even though times are tough, light can still overcome darkness.

Perhaps most moving about the work of Farm 12 and Step By Step is its instructive power. For me, I can’t help but look at what these organizations are doing and wonder how I might be able to think more outwardly, beyond myself. I ask myself: “How can I make those around me feel that they are not alone, that they are being seen? “

And what better time to think about this reality than at Christmas. Although there is no holiday more merchant than Christmas, its religious history centers on the act of God giving Himself to us. A gift for the world. Only that. It is truly incredible that a message from ancient Palestine still has the same kind of saving and hopeful power that I experienced in Puyallup. Generosity, hospitality, and rescue have that kind of power. These acts remind us that we are not alone. We are seen. We’ll get there.


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