Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
– Alexander Pope from An Essay on Man
Hope. It’s what keeps us going through the roughest of times and allows us to find a little something extra to pull out when we feel we are closing to giving in. In fact, I would argue that without hope, little progress would have ever occurred in human history. Why toil and struggle in some seemingly noble effort if there was not even the slightest shred of hope?
Sure, there are stories of heroic last stands in the face of insurmountable odds (The Spartans against the Persian Empire or the Alamo), but by and large, we don’t tend to want to put our hearts and souls into anything that feels pointless or predetermined.
Hope has been on my mind on a lot of late, truth be told. I tend to be an optimistic and hopeful person, but the last few weeks have been a struggle for me. If there is one thing that challenges my belief in the general goodness of life, it’s good or innocent people suffering. I can’t help but think long and hard about the people of Japan, Haiti, Yemen, Libya and Egypt (and I know I likely missed at least one country that has been in the news of late). But on a much more personal level, the events of a few people very close to me have also weighed heavily on my mind. The woman that’s meant more to me than words can capture who is still fighting to recover from the after-effects of leukemia treatments and who, while just seeking a few moments of peace within which to recover, finds out the beloved dog who was there for every step of the fight of her illness has bone cancer. Or one of my absolute best friends relapsing again with leukemia and contracting a bad (and incredibly scary) case of viral pneumonia to the point where he needed to be intubated to breathe.
It could be incredibly easy to lapse into a very gray funk… because, truth be told, hope seems to be missing temporarily or perhaps hiding in some dark corner where it’s waiting to reemerge. Those two people so close to me… how would I tell them that “This too shall pass” or to keep believing when it seems like every step forward is soon followed by a rude shove forcing them to relent their hard-fought gains? How do you stem the tears of someone who is trying to find a little solid footing, but now is heartbroken over the very likely need to say goodbye all-too-soon to the furry friend who was an absolute angel the last 8 years? Anything said can easily come across hollow and insincere to even the most forgiving of viewpoints.
As I’ve often said in this blog, I don’t pretend to have all the answers and write more to share my own experiences as honestly as I can. I do this in the hope that maybe just one other person will find a bit of insight or an ounce of comfort in what I have to say – that would be a tremendous win in my mind and heart.
So what to do? Well, for me, the hope can often come from the very fight itself. The situations that have been on my mind can all reach happy (or at least happier endings) and, hence, are worth fighting for. My role becomes the shoulder to cry on and the friend to lean on. Hmm… not sure if “role” even captures it properly. Duty – I think that’s how I feel about it. I feel incredibly blessed and fortunate that I do not have these horrible things happening to me and so I take it upon myself as my personal duty to bear as much as I can for those I care about. If their hope wavers, mine will not and maybe… just maybe… they will fight a little harder or believe a little more because of that.
Life has so much out of our control. That’s been the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the last 10 to 15 years. My reaction to that is to gut it out and give my best to those precious areas I can control. Sometimes I do it well and others times… ehh… maybe not so much, but I keep trying. The fight itself is worth it… but more importantly… those that mean so much to me are worth even more.
Plus, life always will throw a moment like this one at you:
I defy anyone not to find hope in something like that. I do every time I see it.