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Several years ago a teacher was assigned to visit children at a large city hospital.

She was asked to visit a particular child in the burn unit. His regular classroom teacher told her that his class was studying nouns and adverbs and she didn’t want him to fall behind.

When the visiting teacher arrived at the burn unit, she found the boy badly burned and in great pain. She felt that she couldn’t just turn and walk away, so she stammered and said, “I’m the hospital teacher and your regular teacher sent me to help you with nouns and adverbs.”

The next morning a nurse asked the teacher, “What did you do to that boy?” Before she could off an apology, the nurse continued, “You don’t understand. We’ve been so worried about him. But since you were here yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He’s fighting back and responding to treatment. It’s seems he’s decided that he wants to live.”

The boy later explained that he had completely given up hope until he saw the visiting teacher. He came to the simple realization and said: “They wouldn’t send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?

The most important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.

We hear about the Parable of the Fig Tree in today’s Gospel (Luke 13:1-9). Those of us who are waiting for our little fruitless fig trees to grow need to hear voices of hope here.

Hope is a Christian virtue that needs to be nurtured in each one of us. Hope is not a dream, but a way of making dreams become reality.

In Luke’s parable today, it is not a poet, a physician or a priest who offers hope, but a gardener. It is the vocation of a gardener to give people hope – to wait for the harvest, to know that even beneath the winter snow lies the seed that in the springtime becomes the rose as the Bette Midler song says.

When I reflected and prayed over today’s Gospel story, I noticed something wonderfully hopeful. The gardener prays for restraint and offers a prescription of hope. “Sir, leave it for this year also and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it. It may bear fruit in the future.”

And then the gardener says something quite startling, “If not, you can cut it down.” So even if the fig tree does not bear fruit, the gardener will have nothing to do with destroying it himself. This respectful gardener tells the owner to cut it down. People of hope are like that.

HOPE is the little voice you hear inside whisper “maybe” when it seems the entire world is shouting “NO!”

When was the last time you said “maybe” as a sign of HOPE when others were shouting “NO?”


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