A 17-year-old student from Nardin Academy spelled out her reasons for hope during the Intercultural & Interfaith Thanksgiving Service on Tuesday evening at Westminster Presbyterian Church.
"Faced with a global community littered with what seems to be endless conflict and suffering, it would appear difficult to fan the flames of hope," Clotilde A. Dedecker told an adult audience composed of Sikhs, Jews, Native Americans, Hindus, Protestants, Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims and others.
"For me," she said, "hope stems from many things -- the belief that I can always do better -- that love has the power to overcome hatred and that knowledge has the power to overcome fear -- that the status quo should and must be questioned in order for society to progress. . . ."
The Buffalo resident, who plans to study international relations along with the visual arts, sprinkled her talk with some of the less obvious things that give hope to young people, such as:
The art of laughter, because it reminds us of innocence.
A smile, because it signifies internal illumination.
Chocolate, because it is what it is.
Tears, because they remind man of his compassion.
The Rev. Thomas H. Yorty, pastor of Westminster, led participants in a prayer of thanks "for the beauty of our planet, for food on our table." Then he invited speakers to give their reasons for hope.
Surjit Singh of the Sikh Society shared several Sikh prayers, including one that brought smiles: "Dear infinite God, if I have not sinned, how can You have the title of Redeemer of sinners?"
Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld of Temple Beth Zion, reflecting on autumn, said: "As the sun diminishes, we know with perfect faith that the sun will be back. Hope gives us life."
Al Parker, a Seneca Indian of the Heron Clan, shared a poem that included this stanza: "One day, we shall resume our original stature, / a rightful place amongst fellow men, / to join all people of the Earth, / where we will stand, hand in hand."
Vijay Chakravourthy of the Hindu Cultural Society said: "Every human being is responsible for his or her own actions. Dedicate all your actions as an offering to God. We take solace from those words."
The Rev. Tim Ashton of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Amherst quoted Henry David Thoreau: "Why should we live in such a hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry. I wish to learn what life has to teach and not, when I come to die, discover that I have not lived."
Deacon James Anderson of New Hope Baptist Church quoted from the prophet Jeremiah: "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." He added, "My hope is in nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness."
Jeannette Ludwig of the Zen Dharma Community rang a bell that is rung by Buddhists to "take us into meditation, to sit quietly and focus on what's before us." She added: "Shanti is patience and forebearance. That is our gift to ourselves and to others."
Imam Fajri Ansari of Masjid Nu'uman Mosque read from the Quran and concluded: "We are all descendants of Adam and we are all part of one family."
Then gifts of food for the poor were accepted at the altar by leaders of the event's sponsors, Lana Benatovich of the National Conference for Community & Justice and the Rev. Francis X. Mazur of the Network of Religious Communities.