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THE BASIC INGREDIENT OF HOPE

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By Bob Mueller

Turning on a light is my cue to practice hope. When I plant a seed or a bulb, I am reminded to plant hope in my heart. Whenever I meet people who are thrashing about in gloom and doom I vow to hold up the banner of hope.

Hope is a positive and potent basic ingredient with the power to pull us through difficult times. Hope is the virtue I write and talk about the most and the element most needed in our world. It is usually described with light metaphors – a ray, a beam, a glimmer of hope; the break in the clouds; the light at the end of the dark tunnel. It is often discovered in unexpected places.

Hope can be learned with practice. Certain attitudes support it. One is patience, an ability to tolerate delays, a willingness to let events unfold in their own time. Another is courage, an attitude of confidence even when facing the unknown. A third is persistence, the determination to keep going no matter what happens. We have hope when we can say “All will be well,” and we mean it.

Hope is the basic ingredient of optimism, a tendency to dwell on the best possibilities. It is a frequent companion of another practice – enthusiasm. It, too, is energizing. The greeting “Be of good cheer” puts it well.

But a more common and very telling expression, is “Hope for the best, but expect the worst.” The more likely outcome, it implies, is the worst. When we are without hope we easily fall victim to such negativism. When the light of hope is absent we are overcome by gloom and doom, despair and defeatism.

In terms of personal style, without hope we are easily frustrated and quickly discouraged. We may lack the stamina and nerve to continue struggling against adversity. We are fainthearted. We really do expect the worst.

“Places in the Heart” is an emotional affecting film about living with hope. It is set in a small Texas town during the 1930’s. When Edna’s husband, the sheriff, is killed, this vulnerable and passive woman is suddenly faced with the challenge of taking full responsibility for her life and her children’s future. She hires Moze, a black itinerant worker, to plant and harvest a cotton crop on her 40-acre farm. She takes on Mr. Will, a blind man, as a boarder. This extended family is bonded together during a tornado in the biggest challenge of all – harvesting the cotton in time to win the bonus prize for the first crop, money desperately needed to pay the farm’s mortgage.

This is a story about struggling through adversity and being sustained by hope.

The closing scene of Places in the Heart takes place in a church during a communion service. It demonstrates in a palpable way how the hope for a better life, one of inclusiveness and reconciliation, extends even beyond the grave.

Rock music is basically a hopeful medium, despite all the lyrics about personal woes and the messes and miseries of the world. When we need a boost, nothing is quite as effective as putting on a pounding rock song and joining in the defiant and hopeful chorus. To see what I mean, listen to these anthems of hope: “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash, “You Can Make It If You Try” by Sly and the Family Stone and “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor.

Write affirmations to express your hopes for yourself and a better world. Make positive, optimistic statements as often as possible. Be cheerful. This is not being Pollyanna. It is leaving a door open to hope.

The views expressed in this column are those of the writer.