July 9, 2020

Dear Hope Nation,

For the last 107 days, I’ve written you daily, sometimes about serious matters, sometimes about recovery, sometimes simply silly musings of an old man. From the beginning, I’ve used the metaphor of a ship’s crossing of a sea. These letters can be seen, in a sense, as a ship’s log, at least if the log is kept by an idiosyncratic sailor with a taste for the absurd.  That journey has taken us from the Land of Before across the Sea of During toward the Land of After. “After” here does not mean after the pandemic, for who knows when that will be, but after the quarantine, the sheltering in place, the dispersal of each of us into our own holes.

As I am an old man, I remember playing with balls of mercury in my high school science classes. I understand younger readers may shudder, given mercury’s demonstrated health risks, but it was incredibly fun. Mercury is a metal, liquid at room temperature, with some pretty amazing properties. Given a ball of mercury the size of a BB, a single finger tap breaks it into a dozen or more small balls. Tap those balls and you create another dozen small balls. Continue to tap, and you can end up with hundreds of mercury crumbs on a lab table.

As we’ve taken safe refuge, many of us worried about what the future would be like, whether a future would even be worth living. Hunkered down, some of us felt cut off from the world of recovery. Some of us made do with Zoom. Some of us had reoccurrences (relapses). Some of us died. Some of us set up our own recovery networks, using phone calls, texts, Facebook and any other community-building tools we could find. We longed for the day we could gather again, supporting each other in recovery and in life.

Mercury has a few uses—filling thermometers, bonding with gold to help artisanal miners gather up every last gold flake, and forming amalgams for dental uses.  The tiny bits my finger had created had yet another magical property. Given a gentle sweep of the hand, though, those crumbs would rejoin their fellow bits, forming small balls. As the balls were swept together, they formed larger balls, until all the mercury was gathered together, one large ball of shiny metal.

The day approaches, and soon, when Hope (although different) will reopen, when meetings (although different) will again be held, when friendships (unchanged) will be forged and recovery (transformed by gratitude and technology) will again flow through Hope.  When that day dawns, my hope is each of us will remember these past four months not as a time of sorrow and loss, although there was much of that, nor of anger and bitterness, although there was some of that. My hope is we will cherish this time for our ability to live alone without isolating, to search for community with a hopeful heart, and to grow comfortable in ourselves while continuing to reach out to others.

Big news is coming, but before we take it out of the box, I want to thank every single reader of any of these Dear Hope Nation letters. Whether you’ve written me directly, sent a Facebook message or come up to me in person, your response has been deeply gratifying. I am humbled (and I have much to be humble about). This ship’s journal will come to a close when we pull into the port of After and begin our new lives there. Lives where

You matter. I matter. We matter.


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