Upon reading the Daily Messenger’s Opinion page July 16, some thoughts moved into my mind that I am led to share to offer encouragement to our community in light of the fire that turned the well-loved Nolan’s restaurant to ashes.
The editorial, titled “Prayers, support define community when tragedy strikes,” highlighted the positive impact on the business owners’ hearts as they reflected on the work of the fire and police teams and overwhelming community response of support. There was what seemed an instantaneous outpouring of praying, sharing, providing jobs and encouragement for ones most directly impacted.
The editorial referenced how the rapid response of community inspired and encouraged all involved in the early hours surrounding the tragedy. As the embers were still smouldering, one of the owners spoke of “something really special happening” that was empowering enough to place the vision in the owner’s hearts of a soon-to-be rebuild. As I reflected, a quote from one of my favorite films “,The Shawshank Redemption,” a 1994 drama starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins, came to mind. These words embedded permanently in my memory read, "hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies." Reading the quotes of Nick Violas, spoken only hours after the fire, reassured me that this thing called hope had in fact made its entrance, right on cue, humbly yet powerfully that morning disguised by wafts of smoke rising and powerful hoses manned by devoted workers determined to put the fire to rest. Hope reached down and answered as prayers rose from community members that Thursday morning, without a question. Hope showed up in the willing hearts of helpers reaching out to ones most devastated by the loss. Thursday morning, taking in the scene, my heart felt certain something “really special” was truly happening, and this something was hope arriving in the midst of what seemed like a pretty hopeless moment.
Many of our community have found ourselves distracted, driving by the site catching the image of the pile of rubble remaining of the familiar place so many of us frequented. It is hard to realize how fast things can change and dreams can be destroyed. Then hope shows up again, community stops pondering and offers a hand. I believe the desire to reach out is God-given and placed within us at creation. We were never made for isolation to do life on our own. Community matters to God. People are important, and we are called to matter to each other.
That morning, I found myself praying gratitude that no one was injured and for the willing ones who serve at times like these for protection and safety. As I watched from across the street, that morning I prayed that the God of hope would make a way for all who lost employment to find jobs. The Old Testament writing of Isaiah 61 came to mind as it promises “comfort for those who mourn, provisions for those who grieve, a crown of beauty in place of ashes, joy instead of mourning and garment of praise instead of despair.” Hope was clearly evident to me that morning as the ancient words of prophet Isaiah visited me from the parking lot across the street from Nolan’s.
I am amazed that 700 years later, Jesus read these words of hope in the public synagogue revealing to the people, that it is his love and power that are able still to heal humanity from devastation of heart, soul, mind, body. All of this is still possible because of the victory of the cross. This is the hope greater than any hope we can find from an earthly perspective. I believe it showed up in our beautiful lakeside community of Canandaigua that morning. This is the “special thing that happened” as the owner observed. It showed up in the faithful prayers, determined workers’ sweat and tears and a community rallying around the owners of this establishment. This hope comes from the God of unfailing love who “knows the plans he has for us, plans for good and not for evil, plans that truly assure us of a hope and a future.” ( Jeremiah 29:11) This is the God of hope, who we are promised we will find if we seek him, as a people, a community, with all of our hearts, no matter what broken circumstances we are experiencing. We will find him, right there in the midst of all the details and ashes of our lives. This hope for healing is able to move mountains that seem immovable, and do the impossible with the same power source greater than the greatest enemy of death. Hope from despair, beauty from ashes, strength from weariness, love from fear, these are all promised from this God of hope who showed up at Nolan’s that morning. And this hope never dies.
Denise McKenzie is a resident of Canandaigua.