Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Tale of Hope

Real unity must begin with us

        With all the problems facing the city, it's nice to come across a story of hope.

        That's also her name.

        Hope Thomas turns 11 Friday. She is persistent with questions and lives in Roselawn with her mom and dad, Maurice and Carolyn Thomas, and her teen-age sister, Marquita.

        Hope is persistent by nature. She was born three months premature with Miracle, her twin sister. Miracle lived just six days. Hope survived.

        Now, she's an inquisitive fifth-grader, questioning everything and expecting answers.

        I heard about Hope from her dad. We met on Fountain Square during Monday's Unity Day program. Two Cincinnati natives, West High grads. One black. One white.

        What Maurice had to say convinced me there's hope for Cincinnati's future.

        Hope's dad believes there's no need for boycotts. Or strife. Instead, we must learn to live in peace.

        He delivers that message to Hope when she asks about what's going on in this place we call home. He knows official Unity Days are worthwhile. But he also realizes true unity begins at home.

        To grow up believing united we stand, divided we fall depends on what questions are asked in the home and how they are answered.

        “Cincinnati is such a beautiful place,” Maurice told me. “We should be able to enjoy it together. We're all equal. That's what I keep telling Hope.”

        We stood shoulder to shoulder. Baking under the sun. Beads of sweat streaking our cheeks.

        We were standing up for our hometown. Breaking down racial barriers. Wearing a ribbon of black and white, made stronger by the colors being woven together.

Lawn can wait
        Maurice has the summer off. He teaches special education at Winton Woods High School. He was supposed to be home cutting grass.

        “But this is more important,” he said, looking around the crowded square. “This represents our city's future. The grass can wait.”

        A protester's cardboard sign reminded Maurice of Hope's questions.

        Wherever they go, whatever she sees, she asks, “Why?”

        She sees sign-carrying protesters and asks:

        “Why do they want us to boycott downtown?”

        “Why do people shoot each other?”

        “Why do people run from the police?”

        Maurice can answer every question. But one. It's the big “Why?”

        “Why can't people get along?”

Hope for tomorrow
        Maurice gets a lump in his throat when he hears that question.

        He looks at his daughter, her eyes wide with expectation, hoping for an answer.

        He knows she's posing a question asked too many times by too many generations. Just like the rest of us, Hope wants to make sense of the city's conflicts.

        There's so much Maurice wants to tell Hope. Words stick to the lump in his throat.

        Overcoming his sadness, he tells her, “People can't get along when they don't compromise, when they can't see the other side of the story.”

        He told me, “I want her to think of the other person.”

        Hope is learning a valuable lesson. Being considerate of others is not just good manners.

        Only by learning how to get along, can the people of Cincinnati look to tomorrow with hope.

       Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.


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