Like many people in the world, my husband is a sports addict, and his favorite is football (the American one). He waits with great anticipation for every season, and few things bring him more joy than sitting with chips and dip, a cat on his lap, and perhaps a little crossword activity while the game progresses
My viewing habits are way more high brow.
I am addicted to Outback Opal Hunters.
If you have never seen it, this Discovery Channel show follows several “motley crews” of men and women as they struggle in the Outback of Australia to find the elusive opal. Mining crews come and go, businesses fail and thrive, friendships develop and dissolve, and through it all, the quest never changes.
At the beginning of my addiction, my husband would wander in the room and, in an uncharacteristic way, remark less than kindly that he couldn’t imagine why anyone would watch that kind of show. And in my characteristic fashion, I would reply, “the same kind of people who stare at a screen while grown men run a small ball back and forth.” And of course, I had to add, for emphasis,
It’s my football.
For some reason, in the middle of the night last night, I began to wonder why this show.? What is it about their quest that pulls me in week after week, season after season? Why do I get so invested in these people whose lives are so unlike my own? Why do I root for their success.
And I think it has something to do with hope.
The land on which they struggle to eke out an existence is brutal. The dust blown, arid and mostly empty landscape is broken up only by occasional torrential rains that make the land a sea of mud. The heat is brutal, and the toll it takes on their physical bodies and their mining equipment is constant and extensive.
And yet they continue the quest.
Somewhere, out there in the ground, in the stones, a glimmer of hope resides, and it is the pursuit of that glimmer that keeps them moving forward. Catching sight of that opal peeking through a rough stone causes outbursts of joy that rival the celebration at the birth of a first child. And I find myself celebrating with them, these total strangers who are so determined to never be deterred in their quest.
But there is something else deeper than the opal quest going on here, I think.
An elderly miner gets cancer, and his younger team member devotes his career to helping his friend still experience the joy of the journey at whatever level he can. Equipment fails or gets stuck, and a community rallies to come help out. Young people enter the field, and the elders come alongside to mentor and to lead. Big emotions are displayed, and even bigger grace is given. In the constant struggle for survival, community happens. And perhaps that is my addiction.
I am watching messy grace at work in people seeking tiny glimpses of hope in a barren landscape.
And I am a sucker for messy grace.
In reality, it is a messy world for all of us right now. We are bombarded by violence, disease, war, weather, politics…the list is endless. And then there is the battlefield of our own lives, often wracked by personal struggles and health challenges and splintered family dynamics.
But in these desert times, perhaps we, like the opal miners, can forge ahead, in spite of the conditions, leaning on our community, and focusing on the small glimmers of promise buried in the rubble.
It’s there. I promise you.
Waiting hidden in the rough stones…
Waiting to catch your eye…
Waiting to bring you Hope.