Hope is an essential characteristic of the human psyche. It’s a common feeling or emotion, but sometimes we need a reminder, or permission, to believe that hope can help affect outcomes.
While one dictionary states that hope is “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen,” and “grounds for believing that something good may happen,” Wikipedia tells us that “hope is an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.”
I was riddled by hopeful sentiments as I tried to fall asleep last night:
– Hope that my 18-year-old son would return from a party safe and sound;
– Hope that my large Golden-doodles would let me sleep in;
– Hope that my son in California would heal quickly (he had ACL reconstruction surgery last Saturday) and find direction for his next steps;
– Hope that the weather reports would prove wrong (which is often the case here), and that the sun would shine on Memorial Day. The garden needs attention!
– Hope that our country would renew its focus on gun control, so tragedies like the one in Santa Barbara won’t reoccur;
– Hope that friends who suffer from cancer will find serenity, and perhaps miracles.
I am certain that the cup of coffee I ordered in the afternoon wasn’t really decaffeinated.
I am reminded of the innocent hope that young children feel. Hope that they will feel special on their birthdays, that Santa will deliver on Christmas, that when a new school year begins, they will find good friends in their classes, and hope that they will perform well in sports.
I recall the song my friends and I used to repeat at the corner playground, while climbing the jungle-gym:
Just what makes that little old ant
Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant, can’t
Move a rubber tree plant
But he’s got high hopes
He’s got high hopes
He’s got high apple pie
In the sky hopes…
(To hear Frank Sinatra’s rendition, click here.)
Often, I hear the encouragement my mother offered when I struggled to learn how to read and ride a two-wheeler, repeating the words from The Little Engine That Could: “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…”
And, of course, I recall the oft-quoted stanza from Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Man (ca. 1733):
Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blessed:
The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
I am reminded that the swallow is a symbol of hope, as it’s one of the first birds to appear each spring, and I think about the promise that crocuses and chirping birds and budding trees bring each March.
And let’s not forget Obi-Wan Kenobi, who in Star Wars serves as Princess Leia’s “only hope.” We all know how that story turned out.
This morning, I am devouring information on hope in a Wikipedia essay. I learned that Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson argues that hope comes into its own when crisis looms, opening us to new creative possibilities. Positive thinking like the “Little Engine’s,” she says, “bears fruit when based on a realistic sense of optimism, not on a naive ‘false hope.’ ”
The essay tells me that psychologist C.R. Snyder links hope to the existence of a goal, combined with a determined plan for reaching that goal.
I read that followers of Hinduism make a strong connection between karma and hope: “In Hindu belief, actions have consequences, and while one’s effort and work may or may not bear near term fruits, it will serve the good, that the journey of one’s diligent efforts (karma) and how one pursues the journey, sooner or later leads to bliss and moksha.”
As I pull weeds today, I resolve to contemplate how hope can comfort and motivate so many of us to move forward, yet in so many different ways. I am mindful that hope is embodied in:
- The man using the last $10 from his paycheck to purchase a lottery ticket;
- The feeble widow carrying cups of quarters from one slot machine to another in Reno;
- The child trying to fall asleep on Christmas eve, anxious about what he will find under the tree;
- A woman who has discovered she is pregnant, hoping that the little being will grow and thrive and emerge as a healthy baby;
- The new father imagining his newborn’s future – perhaps better than his own, perhaps following in his footsteps;
- The proud parents, aunts and grandparents at commencement ceremonies over the coming weeks, hoping that the graduate will find happiness and success in life;
- The recent graduate, preparing her resume, making connections on LinkedIn and perusing ads on Craig’sList.com;
- The rainbow that appears at a low moment, convincing a sad, lonely, sick or depressed person that all will turn out well;
- The crowd at a baseball game, when it’s the bottom of the ninth inning, the home team is losing by several runs, the bases are loaded and the beloved slugger is up to bat;a
- The brain-trauma survivor, continuing painful therapy;
- The destitute family in Mexico, watching a team of church-group youth build them a small home. (Thanks to Dylan Sullivan for this amazing video.)
- The political prisoner or prisoner of war, continuing to believe he or she will be released. I think of Louis Zamperini – the 1930s track star-turned Navy pilot-turned lifeboat- and Japanese POW camp survivor, whose life was documented in Laura Hillenbrand’s amazing novel, Unbroken, and his own memoir, Devil at My Heels: A Heroic Olympian’s Astonishing Story of Survival as a Japanese POW in World War II: “Yet a part of you still believes you can fight and survive no matter what your mind knows. It’s not so strange. Where there’s still life, there’s still hope. What happens is up to God.”
- David Sheff and his son Nic, whose years of drug addiction, sobriety and relapse were chronicled in David’s best-seller Beautiful Boy and his latest novel Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy, and who said in a recent interview: “I…realized how lucky we were. After multi-treatment programs when we were hopeful, and then multiple relapses, when we were once again terrorized and terrified, Nic was doing great – now he’s been sober for five years.”
- The local friend with Stage 4 lung cancer, who writes witty, heart-wrenching, grateful, honest and hopeful updates on her Caring Bridge website: “I want to meet other survivors in the 5% Club – those people who were diagnosed with STAGE 4 LUNG CANCER, and given very poor odds, yet beat the odds. I want to speak to these people and get their advice on what to do as I wage this major battle.”
Today, I give myself permission to focus on wisdom from the esteemed writer Anne Lamott: “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: You don’t give up.”
– Linda Williams Rorem, PermissionSlips, 26 May, 2014
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