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"Hope is the thing with feathers"

Dr. Claudia MacMillan, curriculum consultant and director of the MacMillan Institute, visited Jackson this week. In addition to leading a faculty and staff Salon Dinner on lyrical poetry, she addressed the community at Monday’s opening ceremony. In continuing with this month’s theme on the theological virtue of hope, Dr. MacMillan used a poem by Emily Dickinson to explain what hope is like even in the “storms” or difficult moments of life.
The first few lines of the poem compare hope to a bird: “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers / that perches in the soul.” Dr. MacMillan said that this reminded her of a small, delicate bird like a sparrow. It isn’t big or loud, and it doesn’t announce its presence with grandeur, like an eagle or vulture or other large bird might. While hope is “perched” in our souls, Dickinson’s speaker goes on to say, “And sings the tune without the words / And never stops - at all.” Hope comes to us and sings in our soul. Dr. MacMillan said. “Hope is a funny thing. It’s not something we look for. Rather, it’s something that we seem to tap into, something that is out there but is not of our making. It’s not something we do, but believe.”

Even in difficult times, hope keeps singing: “And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard.” Hope keeps singing, even in the storm. It may not be loud, but it is there. Dr. MacMillan explained, “Sometimes hope can be big and strong, but more often, for me at least—especially when it comes to really big things and important matters, which is what most of life seems to be about these days—hope is more like the little bird that Emily Dickinson’s narrator describes in the poem. May we all have strong, robust hope that can take us through walls. But I also hope that that little bird of hope is there when I need it most, singing its unending song.”
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