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'Hopes, Fears and Tears'

About 250 people gathered Sunday night in Ashland for "Hopes, Fears and Tears," hosted by The Hearth's Mark Yaconelli and aimed at healing the emotional fallout from the contentious presidential election.

Participants were warned not to debate politics at the gathering, held at the First Presbyterian Church, but to share their fears and hopes and to remember how they pulled through times of misery and doubt.

In small groups, people said they feared President-elect Donald Trump's policies would set back gains made in women's rights and with low-income people, that prejudice against Muslims and Mexicans would increase, and that the U.S. would become an embarrassment globally. They also said the vitriol of this election makes them feel people have lost the ability to listen and empathize.

“We’re all struggling with this, beyond our capacity for knowing what it is,” said longtime community activist John Fisher-Smith.

Speaking to the large group and trying to describe the fear in himself and the community, longtime guitarist-composer Gene Burnett said, “Fear is like the loss of the words we know. Things are about to change for the better and they get much worse. We don’t know what it is and not knowing is the root of all fear.”

Many of the others in the gathering declined to be quoted on the record.

Hoping to draw inspiration and vision from past life lessons, Yaconelli asked participants to share stories from their own lives when they made it through challenging struggles. Many did, finding the common thread that no matter how despairing things are now, they evolve and resolve into a better life.

“Everyone found they had a will to go on,” said Fisher-Smith. 

Yaconelli challenged people to a final question, “What gives you life now?” Many said nature, animals and simple things like the hugs of friends.

Reach Ashland freelance writer John Darling at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Ashland resident Mark Yaconelli speaks to a group gathered to share 'Hopes, Fears and Tears' in the wake of the presidential election. Photo by Larry Stauth Jr. for the Mail Tribune