This poem by Caroline Nderitu beautifully captures the essence of what it is to have hope:
Why does the sun rise,
why do we get up every morning,
why is there breath in our lungs,
why are we here,
hope, for hope we live.
Not because the grass is green beneath our feet,
not because the skies are calm above our heads,
not because the wind is cool and the breeze calm on our sides,
but for hope we live.
Not because mangoes hang ripe up on the tree
but because there is seed in the ground, there will be a harvest,
not because the well is wet
but because the clouds are gathering
and there will be rain and rivers will flow,
rivers of joy, rivers of peace, rivers of life,
hope, for hope we live.
Hope is a sparkle in our eye,
hope is a twinkle in our smile,
hope is a glow on our bow, joy in our hearts, music in our laughter,
for hope we live.
Why does a baby crawl,
why does a widow hum,
why does a fisherman cast his net upon the bare ocean,
why does a builder place brick on brick on brick, hope,
for hope we live.
Not because yesterday was fresh,
not because tomorrow is full but because tomorrow is fertile, hope,
for hope we live.
Whatever else we lose, we never lose hope,
As long as we have hope, we have something and hope does not let us down,
hope, for hope we live.
On a day-to-day basis we often use the word ‘hope’, but what is the actual meaning behind the word ‘hope’? Not just the English dictionary definition but what does it mean to have hope and to live in hope. Hope is not something that is just some airy-fairy concept; it is a psychological need to believe that we can endure. A psychological need to believe that we cannot only endure but that we can succeed and thrive and we can have our way in the world, so that we can accomplish our dreams, make influence and make our own difference. Have hope.
In a time where Donald Trump is the newly elected President of the United States, we are Brexiting and wars and other worldly events are filling our TV screens, many people would say they have no hope left for what is to come for humanity. Michele Obama recently said ‘Now we are feeling what not having hope feels like…hope is necessary.’ Although the former First Lady is correct in some ways, she has made a rooky error in assuming that we have lost all hope! I hope (see what I did there?) to demonstrate exactly why we continually and unconsciously live in hope. To do this, we need to strip back the layers and explore hope in its simplest form as well as asking the question; what can we do to sustain hope?
Where there is no hope, there is no life; hope is a combination of desire and expectation for something uncertain, something unguaranteed. Whether strong or faint, all a hope needs to be sustained is a want and the belief that it might possibly happen. If you live in hope you can’t die in despair, of the many struggling in the current economic and social climate, hope may seem like the only thing left, possibly even a figment of imagination but hope is optimism and faith, something every human encompasses within themselves even if it may seem deep down inside. Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.
Religion is faith. Religion is a glimmer of hope in your God or gods. The Bible, Jeremiah 29;11, ‘for I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ The Quran 18:110 ‘So whoever would hope for the meeting with his Lord – let him do righteous work and not associate in the worship of this Lord alone.’ As well as these holy books, many other religious scripts preach and instill the idea of hope.
Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable; few things are more ethereal than hope. The positive physiological effect of hope is well documented in Jerome Groopman’s ‘The Anatomy of Hope.’ Groopman’s research shows that during illness, belief and expectation (two key elements of hope) have a significant impact on the nervous system which, in turn, sets off a chain reaction that makes improvement and recovery more likely; this process is fundamental to the widely accepted ‘placebo effect’ which is created by a hopeful outlook. Not only are the positive effects of hope documented physiologically, but mentally too. A study done by two professors who set out to study hope amongst children suffering from end-stage renal failure, recorded some interesting findings but what stood out to me was something that a patient said to one of the professors, ‘I’m normal. Hope makes me normal.’ This simple statement speaks volumes about the importance of hope.
Although you would imagine that hope is not measurable, there is something called ‘The Hope Scale’ – a 12 question questionnaire that helps determine how much hope a person has. The hope scale is split into four categories,
- Goals = valuable/uncertain goals are the anchor of the hope theory; they provide an end point and direction to the hope.
- Pathway thoughts = create routes for achievement
- Agency thoughts = create motivation to go down these routes
- Barriers are things that block attainment and the person must either give up or create a new pathway.
With these four points in mind, I go on to ask the very important question of ‘How do we sustain hope?’ Well, I’ve got a few tips and tricks for you:
- Remember this simple metaphor – the power plant does not ‘have’ energy, it transforms and generates it. So think of yourself as a big power plant who transforms and generates hope rather than ‘having it’.
- Keep perspective: a lot of people ‘lose’ hope because their focus goes off. They become very myopic to their own ego, their own emotional reality, their own tiny little world and they miss the joy, abundance, the connection, the incredible energy of this buoyant and jubilant world all around them, even when sometimes the immediate people in their lives or their immediate tribe or culture is not so good.
- Keep your strength: if you’re down right now and struggling, don’t forget to pull forth and integrate those successes that you’ve had before; those times in your life when things did go well, those times in your life when you surprised yourself with how well you did something or how kind you were or how much you cared or how good of a piece of art you created. Remember those strength times, those times that there was success, those times that good things did happen. Pull them, feel them, sense them and bring those things to the moment at hand where things do feel frustrating, challenging, disappointing or dark. You have had beautiful days before. They will come again. It’s believing in that that sustains our hope.
- Make a plan: it’s easy to feel you’ve lost hope if there’s no plan. If there’s no vision the people perish, right? So you have to have a vision for your life. What is it you see out there for yourself? What is your plan to go and get it?
- Stay persistent: keep at it no matter what. If we’ve got our perspective in mind, if we have our plan then we have to be persistent, to keep working towards it.
- Be patient: sometimes we lose hope in other people, actually we don’t lose hope… we just forgot to be patient. You need to give a lot of patience to the people in your life if you’re going to sustain hope for them and for your relationships with them. Patience is a critical element. It’s not discussed a lot, but it’s so fundamental to having hope: to be patient with it.
Holding onto these simple tips throughout your life will make a significant difference to how you live your life and in turn view hope and its importance in today’s society.
The purpose of enriching you with all this great information on hope is not to force you into believing ‘’we live in hope’, but instead to prove to you why we do. Therefore, I leave you with this thought; the great Martin Luther King told us ‘we must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.’ So I ask you this, if there is ‘infinite hope’ why do we feel it can be lost? Really, hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness, we live in darkness, the unknown. We live in hope.
Mariam Ziada, U5