“Hope does not disappoint us…” Romans 5:5
When I emptied my mother’s house, I discovered a collection of 67 wishbones. Really. I counted them several times to be certain I had it right. If you’re skeptical of that number, you can come count them yourself; because strange as it seems, I packed them up and moved them across the country. I don’t know if you’d rather put your energy into contemplating why my mother saved them or why I moved them, but I wouldn’t go far down either road. I’m sure she saved them because wish bones are special: it’s fun to dry them, give one to a couple of people to break, invite each to make a wish and then the one who comes away with the knob gets their wish. Or so they say. A person like my mother would never throw something like that away, especially once she’d set it aside and cleaned it up. It’s also possible she had an idea for something she wanted to do with the collection, but I’m not going out on a limb far enough to ponder what that might have been. The best I can do at explaining why I still have them is something vague related to cherishing one of my mother’s quirks (no, I didn’t also save the yogurt containers); then something even more vague about figuring out how to give them to her kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, passing along a piece of her wish for us. I’m not predicting how long I’ll have them, but you can if you want.
Sixty-seven wishbones generate a lot of wishes, especially if two people hold the ends and wish at the same time. But what do those wishes accomplish, beyond creating a pile of at least 134 bone pieces? It seems to me that it’s hard to generalize about wishes. Some disappear as quickly as the smoke from birthday candles. Others fall like snowflakes and accumulate at the feet of carolers who wish listeners a Merry Christmas, whether the accumulation is just a dusting, or a major schedule rearranging storm. Some wishes have a heartbeat, legs on which to stand, and roots that grow deep in order to connect with a nourishing Source greater than themselves. Those are the wishes I call hope.
Bearing no resemblance to thoughts tossed up without so much as a second glance, hope is the deep-seated, recurrent longing that knows where to go for consultation and fulfillment. Wishes may not always come true, but hope is more about confidence and trust than being in control of the details. Hope dwells in the soul after all of the lights have gone out and the night threatens to last forever, pulsing with a steady beat that promises it won’t always be like this, and while we may not see it now, dawn will come.
Mom knew about hope, even as she gathered the trinkets to make children laugh. Perhaps if she’d passed the wishbones along to us, they would have come with her wish for happy days and peaceful nights, meaningful work and supportive friends, and when all else crumbles, hope to carry us through.