Notebook

Hope

Amid the excesses, and frequent banality, of seasonal decoration in our society of affluence, I was moved by this image from a youth prison in Northern Cameroon. The embellishments were overseen by a man serving a very long sentence, a man who once said: ‘You have to accept who you are. Once you do that, peace is possible. In prison I have become a man. My desire is to enable each of my comrades, too, to say with conviction, ‘I am a man’, to help them understand that they possess a freedom of self even in prison.’ One way of doing that is by creating something gratuitously lovely, the way God did when he created the world, and each of us. The friend who sent me the photograph remarked: ‘There is an irony in the paper ornaments becoming so many lights with the glow of the prison search lights beamed onto them. A confirmation that beauty can be retrieved wherever there is the faith to do so.’ Where there is beauty and faith, hope can be reborn. Blessed are those who kindle it.