"If the antidote to despair involves hoping, wishing, and friendship, it also involves waiting. At rock bottom, perseverance asks that we cope with obstacles, remain fixed on a goal, and that we stand poised, ready to spring if an opportunity presents itself. 'The positive waiting of hope,' writes William Lynch, 'has made up its mind and wishes so strongly that it will wait for what it wants.'

"We could test Lynch's observations by taking a look at Celie's life, as Alice Walker presents this character to us in her novel The Color Purple.

"Celie's situation is abysmal. Raped by the man who claims to be her father, she bears him two children who are taken from her. Abused by her husband and her mean-spirited stepchildren, she is virtually a slave in her own home. Even so, Celie never gives up hope although only a faint glimmer burns in her soul.

"It is only when a friend, Shug Avery, enters Celie's life that the spark of hope is fanned. Lynch would say that hope grows because Celie has someone who shares her wishing. Shug and other women even prod Celie to wish more than she does. 'You deserve more than this,' one of them says to her. And when Celie protests, Shug insists and encourages Celie to wait patiently for the time she can leave her husband and follow her dream of being a seamstress. All of this, eventually, comes to be. Hoping, wishing, friendship, and waiting move Celie from hopelessness and despair to a creative future, not by magic but by persevering at each juncture in the process. It happens by living through the pain, by guarding with one's life the tiny light of hope, by finding and treasuring unselfish support wherever we find it — and what a ministry this is! — and by waiting for the new day to dawn.

"Patience is very much part of the process. Perseverance and patience are virtually synonymous. It is one thing to be called to do something virtuous occasionally — almost anyone can muster the strength and courage for that. But patience asks that we overcome the fatigue that invites us to quit; it asks us to persist in a course of action for a long time.

"While patience is involved in perseverance, it is not a weak and passive patience. The virtue of patience — as opposed to the caricature of patience — is an active exercise of power. It is worth cultivating because it enables us to continue efforts despite obstacles, delays, or the temptation to quit; to act strongly without complaint, to believe in the future, and to keep on keeping on."

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