Christ riding into Jerusalem on a donkey is one of the most understated and remarkable entrances of all time. For once, and for however short a time, a prophet was honored in his own country. While that event is certainly in a category of its own, and while our reception of subsequent ‘prophets’ has been a mixed bag, there’s been one constant, one simple truth: hope and promise persist in humble packages, and in the most unexpected places.
Oskar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg, each of whom was credited with saving thousands of Jews from persecution during the Holocaust, were honored as Righteous Gentiles by Israel. In 114 years, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded 96 times. In the United States, there have been 3,498 recipients of the Medal of Honor since 1863, and 577 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom since 1963.
We have honored astronauts, champions, and victorious forces with ticker tape parades down Broadway. High athletic achievement has often landed those responsible on cereal boxes, billboards, the sides of buses, and everywhere in between. Today when most people are in the presence of greatness, whether it be athletic, humanitarian, or otherwise, they are never more than two or three sentences from asking for a selfie for posterity. Moments of consequence are almost always covered within the 24-hour news cycle with a countdown clock in the right corner of the screen and perhaps even some special music scored specifically for the coming event.
Then there are the heroes that aren’t recognized. I write this with full and painful knowledge of the irony of trying to recognize those whom we don’t recognize – but with certainty that there are those among us who sacrifice for greater good, who toil without desire for reward, who struggle daily to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in unexpected places.
During this season of hope, most of us find ourselves toiling at a frenzied pace, but far from making the impact worthy of such recognition. We can practice and inspire hope in our everyday actions, however, and find promise in the most unlikely places. In a quiet moment with a family member, or through a connection with a stranger on the street or in the store, we can infuse a day with a ripple of hope that might carry that person through a storm. Great promise and hope can enter our lives in humble ways; we need only be ready to receive it.