A Student Taught Me About Hope in a Hopeless World

Jacob Eckeberger
February 1st, 2017

I think it’s safe to say we live in divided times.

You can’t turn on the news, go on Twitter, or even walk through Walmart without hearing or seeing the effects of how deeply broken our nation is at this point in time. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, I think we’re all feeling the weight of it.

Along with the rest of the country, I watched the events on January 20th, 2017 with lots of emotion.

There were moments I couldn’t believe my eyes or ears. There were moments I wept. There were moments I was in complete shock. To be honest, it all felt pretty hopeless to me.

We had a student from our church who had the opportunity to actually attend the Inauguration in Washington D.C. She had signed up long before we knew who would be President of the United States. She really wanted to go and experience this historic event firsthand. When she came back, I asked her all about it. I asked her things like…

  • Was it really as empty as it looked?
  • Were you angry?
  • Can you believe this is happening?
  • What did your classmates think?
  • Was everyone there a supporter of our new President-elect?

Most of my questions revolved around logistics and my own perspective. I think I wanted to hear her confirm everything I thought and felt. It was as if she could confirm those, I’d have some form of peace because I’d be right (at least that’s what I thought).

However, she wasn’t really interested in talking about any of that.

She wanted to tell me about what happened after the Inauguration.

Following the ceremony, her class headed to the MLK and FDR memorials. She wandered around, reading all the various quotes and writings from these historical figures. What struck her was not how different some of the things were from our current President. She instead focused on what was missing.

She explained to me, from her perspective, that what she realized there that day is that we are missing a global perspective. I asked her to talk to me a bit more about that. As she went on, she expressed her fear that we have lost our willingness to love and bestow compassion. Everyone is an enemy now. Every day we are making more enemies and not learning instead how to love, embrace, and forgive.

She told me about this quote from President Roosevelt:

“In the field of World policy, I would dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbor, the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others, the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a World of neighbors.”

This neighbor language is deeply missing in today’s cultural climate.

I asked her if she feels as hopeless as I do, and she responded with a simple…


I couldn’t fathom that! How could she not feel how I felt? How could she be so calm in such a storm!?!

She went on to explain that it wasn’t that she didn’t feel a sense of heaviness, but her hope isn’t lost. Her hope has never been in Washington D.C. It’s always been in Jesus, and with him, there’s always hope.

That day, a student I’ve been teaching for years, reminded me of something…

She helped me open my eyes to the reality that we don’t have to be divided.

We may be right now, but it doesn’t have to be like that forever. We can change it by being Jesus to this world. We are called to “love our neighbor as yourself” in Mark 12:31.

I think I’ve always hurried over that verse. I heard it so much growing up, it seemed to have lost its importance a bit to me. However, that one simple phrase has such tremendous potential for change and impact in our world that we cannot simply skim over it any longer.

We must embrace our neighbors.

That means everyone, everywhere. The world is filled with our neighbors.

The angry parent is your neighbor.

The annoying student is your neighbor.

The convicted felon is your neighbor.

Your mother-in-law is your neighbor.

Your ex-best friend is your neighbor.

Your senior pastor is your neighbor.

Refugees are your neighbor.

The President is your neighbor.

Your arch nemesis is your neighbor.

We don’t get to pick and choose who is a part of this world. God did, and He loves them all equally. Our call is to follow in His footsteps.

We cannot remain divided. We cannot remain broken. I believe we are called to movement, and that starts by setting ourselves aside and loving those all around us wherever we go.

We must embody that for our families, our students, and the world.

We must continue pursuing a life of Christ-likeness for he is where our hope, alone, resides.

Ryan_Schmall-819x1024RYAN SCHMALL is the Student Ministries Pastor at Redding First Church of the Nazarene in Northern California. He is married to his wife Jeanette, and together they have three amazing girls. Ryan is passionate about creating experiences and environments for people to encounter God in new and unique ways. You can follow him on TWITTER or read his blog over at IAMRYANSCHMALL.TUMBLR.COM.

Jacob Eckeberger

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