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Column: Choosing hope when the news is dark
Shannon Casas high res
Shannon Casas

Hope is a pretty word.

It sounds soft, warm and fuzzy, full of light. 

For anyone who has hoped for something for a long time, though, or tried to find hope in a really dark place — that word, whew, it’s so hard. 

When what’s hoped for feels impossible, what is the point of hope? It’s exhausting. 

With the shooting in The Covenant School in Nashville, Tenn., on Monday, I’m finding hope exhausting. 

Hoping for any of this to end feels impossible. 

We all know how the conversations play out. Many of us seem to think we know what should be done if only those on the other side would just get over themselves and do it. 

When I first heard the news, I just didn’t engage at all. 

The heartache. The debates. It all feels so pointless. 

Then I came across the story of one of the victims: Katherine Koonce, who was head of school there.

This was a woman who believed in hope. 

I did not even know of her until this week, but hope filtered through her into another story that filtered down into my story. 

The local paper in Nashville, The Tennessean, reported her story — the way she helped students find self-worth, the way she encouraged her staff to do the next right thing, her own likely effort to confront this shooter.

The part of her story that connects with me is how she walked through grief with a musician’s family several years ago.

The Tennessean quoted musician Steven Curtis Chapman, who shared that Koonce was someone who poured into his kids during their grief journey.

He’s a musician I’ve followed since childhood, and I remember hearing the news that led to this grief. One of Chapman’s then teenage sons was driving an SUV and hit his little 5-year-old sister in their driveway, killing her. It doesn’t get much more heart-wrenching than that. 

Where is the hope in that situation? Where?

But you know what — today that teenage son and another sing about hope night after night in their own band. And apparently Koonce played a big role in helping them find that hope.

One of those sons wrote she was a guiding light in their darkest hour.

My story of grief is different — it’s a journey through the painful stories we intersect in foster care, and the way that grief takes its toll on the kids in our lives. Even when it’s not the permanent grief of death, sometimes it feels like the darkness is drowning out the light in my fight to bring hope to these kids. 

The Chapman boys through their music have reminded me to choose hope again and again rather than give into the exhaustion. 

I hate what they went through. I hate what my kids have been through. I hate what every person connected with The Covenant School is going through now — including the family and friends of Katherine Koonce.

She may have lost her life, but hope didn’t die with her. It’s alive in everyone she touched and those they touched and so on. We’re each capable of bringing hope to others. Sometimes the only reason that’s possible is because someone else brought hope to us.

So, I know it’s exhausting. We may feel more despair than hope today. But whatever our story, whatever mess has devastated our world, let’s choose hope.

Shannon Casas is director of audience for Metro Market Media, parent company of The Times. She is a North Hall resident.