Is your hope these days in a vaccine? A new political or economic vision? More public attention to ending racism or climate warming?
Whatever we look to outside of ourselves is always transient. A more reliable basis for hope comes from within our own hearts and minds. What beliefs do we cultivate? What visions do we hold up as a light for ourselves and the world? What brave choices are we willing to make?
I asked a few Twin Citians to reveal how they call on hope to meet the challenges that matter most to them. Here is some of what they shared with me.
Challenge: I see how divided and polarized people seem to be under the stress of a pandemic, the political climate, dueling practices for sustaining our environment or growing our economy, and many other situations. Along with that is feeling that, as just one person, I can’t make a difference or even discuss matters with others that have differing/strong opinions.
Hope: I love the quote “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I believe we all can make a little difference in our corner of the world which will vibrate into a larger movement around the world as we continue to practice the universal principles of love, compassion, generosity and service.
If I focus on practicing these principles and putting one foot in front of the other to take action, I don’t focus on what I can’t do. If I focus on what is going right, it takes my focus off what is going “wrong.” Then, my dread begins to turn to hope.
Challenge: Surviving the coronavirus. I am in one of the highest risk groups—an older Black woman with pre-existing medical conditions who is still working. Anti-vaccination groups have targeted African Americans with misinformation about new anti-COVID vaccines.
Hope: I begin my day with phone devotions from my church, Westminster. Hearing a human voice with a message from scripture is key to my spiritual and emotional wellbeing. I believe that our Creator embodies hope for us all. Then I read two devotions, “God Pause” from Luther Seminary and “Reflections” by Glenn McDonald. That centers and grounds me for my workday.
Then I get busy doing my calling to alleviate suffering from racism, sexism and all the other “isms” in workplaces, government, communities, and education. My current work gives me hope, listening to people from nine nations talk about their vision for change.
Challenge: When people close to me make choices that postpone or avoid conflict resolution. This activates concern in me that current problems will continue and eventually get worse.If I focus on what is going right, it takes my focus off what is going “wrong.” Then, my dread begins to turn to hope.
Hope: One way I deal with this is to acknowledge to myself my inner concerns. I also work to hold this person in a light of goodwill and honor and behold they’re on their own sacred journey with God. I tell myself, “Who am I to know what’s best for them?”
I keep in check my judgment of what will/could/might happen, and I put my trust in God that all will be well for everyone. This eventually gives me joy to witness others close to me living their lives for themselves rather than according to my recommendations for them.
Challenge: The divide and anger in the world, especially in America, coupled with the COVID pandemic. There are days that it is just too much to bear.
Hope: A quote by John Lubbock near my desk says, “What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” So, I intentionally seek out stories of helpers, healers, and givers during the most dismal of circumstances. I think about the difficult times in my own life, and how something positive eventually came out of them.
Most of the time what comes is spiritual growth and wisdom. Perhaps that is what will bloom out of the muck we are neck high in right now. I am hopeful that it will. It’s important for me to remember that when bad things happen, good things happen too. All I need to do is be willing to look.
Challenge: Racism. The challenge is to finally see one another in our humanity as equals with common needs; accepting the reality that we are on this planet together – breathing the same oxygen. The challenge is to let go of white dominance and the notion of white supremacy and the “othering” of people who are different. Racism as a social construct needs to become “old business” and to be recognized as an insult to God the Creator, who made us all as equals.
Hope: I am hopeful that, especially after the tragic death of George Floyd, that we can make incremental changes. Anti-racism dialogues have popped up all over the country. Eyes were opened sadly as we watched Mr. Floyd’s death on camera. I am hopeful that from these groups, alliances will form between People of Color and Whites.
Challenge: Figuring out how to remain active and committed to projects and causes I care about – and to give myself permission to change my mind. I have found myself feeling resentment or guilt when I drag myself to meet a commitment or when I drop the ball and don’t complete a promised task. I thought I simply needed to reset my priorities. But it was more than that. So, I’ve been asking myself, “What makes me think I’m indispensable or that I had to prove my value in retirement by the number of tasks I take on?”
Hope: I find hope from the places I have learned to find it in the past – talking out loud (with counseling; good men friends; my spouse and my sister), writing about it (another way of talking out loud) and reading poetry (especially Billy Collins, Robert Bly, Mary Oliver and Charles Haislet).
It’s important for me to remember that when bad things happen, good things happen too.I have always been a glass-half-full kind of guy. I expect things to turn out. When I feel disquiet, have trouble sleeping, or get snappish with people I love, I know that my path back to equilibrium is not to sit in a corner and try to figure things out, but to talk out loud. I think best by verbalizing my inner voice, by directly addressing my ghosts and dark places. As with any dis-comfort or dis-ease, the cure is allowing my inner voice to bring in sunlight, adjusting my posture to resume its natural shape, and relaxing in company of people I love.
Challenge: This weight of heaviness in the air. This sense of collective sadness and grief over the many losses that were and were not expected.
In addition to this, there is a continual sense of uncertainty and anxiety in what the future will bring. Sometimes it seems that the world is collectively holding its breath.
Hope: When I get out in nature with my dog, I find peace and hope. There I see beauty. Nature reminds me that the seasons change, and it won’t be like this forever.
Challenge: When one has chronic health issues or incurable disease, hope vanishes. Finding out one cannot have kids, hope vanishes. Losing a job, a fiancé, a loved one to suicide, hope vanishes. These traumas can easily envelope us into darkness losing any glimmer of light, let alone hope for happiness or peace again.
Hope: Yet hope comes back. It comes from not shying away from our feelings. It comes from facing our grief and pain. It comes from knowing that we are guided by something divine and can be moved spiritually if we allow it. We cannot just give ourselves hope though. It’s not a door that just opens and hope shines upon us. We must take action to enjoy the simple things – a good laugh with friends, a book we get lost in. Something that brings joy to our hearts and mind. When we find the positives again, letting light and love into our spirit, we will find hope back in our lives.
Challenge: Staying positive and on an even keel during these times of pandemic and politics. It’s easy for me to look at things with a jaundiced eye and I have to catch myself when I do.
Hope: Work, exercise and staying in touch with loved ones help keeps me positive and hopeful. Going through the things I’m grateful for when I’m not in a great place is very helpful, as is reaching out to people who are having a rough time. Meditation books also put me on the right path and the Acceptance “prayer” on page 417 of the Big Book never fails to center me.
Challenge: When we [Pippi and her writing and performing partner Daniel Leahy] found ourselves not being able to tour and shows were canceled.
Hope: We gave ourselves hope by changing our perspective. We decided that there had to be another way and we found it through social media. Since we are composers and performers of transformational music, what better way to reinforce what revelations you’ve received than to share with others how it’s worked for you.
So, we share it with people on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube! We share what we have been given — downloads as we call it — of this beautiful music. We share the philosophies and gratitude practices that this music has given us with the hope it will inspire others.
Challenge: As a therapist, one of my biggest challenges is staying present to my clients and their needs. Many are so tuned in to media reports and arguments on social media that they are freaking out. They are stuck in a fear loop in their minds and bodies.
Hope: In order to stay present in healthy ways, I have to stay present to myself and my needs. I have to guard my own physical, mental and spiritual health. I have to eat healthy food, take my vitamins, take pauses for fun – like watching funny videos on YouTube. Faith is a big part of my self-care, so I engage practices which lift my eyes and heart off myself and my concerns.
I have to consistently engage healthy coping skills such as lining my mind up with what is true, taking time for rest, conversation with friends and family, and prayer. Because I don’t look for circumstantial hope, I am able to operate in peace most of the time. I am not in denial; I just choose to set my mind on other things. Whatever we feed grows, so I choose to foster healthy, realistic thoughts.
Challenge: A growing sense of loneliness that is prevalent across the generations. COVID-19 certainly isn’t helping a problem that’s been growing silently and almost unnoticed.
Hope: I hope that one of the things we learn from this COVID-19 experience is that we really do need each other, and as human beings, connectedness is hard wired into our DNA. Perhaps we will better be able to see the importance of staying connected and learn to reach out, so people don’t suffer in loneliness.
Pat Samples is a Twin Cities writer, writing coach, and champion of creative aging. Her website is patsamples.com.
Last Updated on January 13, 2021