The Necessity of Hope

November 11, 2017

Every day, it seems, there is a new crisis somewhere in the world. Especially as of late, news cycles are so often dominated by doom and gloom. Hurricanes destroying the Caribbean, political unrest in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, and our own backyard, and the re-emergence of the plague in Madagascar are all continuing developments that have occurred only within the last month. Not to mention the variety of other tragedies that fail to make headlines, the world can seem like a horrible place through the lens of breaking news reports.

With all of the bleakness delivered by events such as the Las Vegas shooting or the Texas shooting or the, well you get my point, it can be hard to come to terms with the world as it lives and breathes, sighs and decays. Being resigned to the idea that life is ‘just like this’ brings no change, no betterment of the world as a whole. In order to strive for success, for equality, for a brighter future and a better today, one must be motivated by hope. For soon-to-be president Barack Obama in 2008, hope was the centerpiece of his campaign. Hope that we can purge the scourge of suffering from society. Hope that we can bring to life the vision of the earth that we want to pass down to our children. Hope that yes, we can.

Hope is defined as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” Hope is what gets people out of bed in the morning who have just lost everything in storms like Haiyan and Irma. It gets people to try to rebuild their houses and their lives, their communities and themselves, not because they want to, but because they have to. Because life waits for no one. The road forward can only be taken if there is a destination, if there is a light at the end of whatever pitch-black tunnel we all have found ourselves in at one point or another. Hope is that guide.

In an earlier blog post, I posed the question that every Filipino after Typhoon Haiyan must have asked themselves: What now? To that conundrum there is only one answer. When your future and everything you own has been swept out to sea, it becomes nearly impossible to see the skies as anything but forever stormy. But, the first step to getting back on one’s feet after a disaster of that, or any proportion, is to believe that it is possible to do so. That there is no other option.

We all believe in something. We all place hope in someone and instill it in someone else. This spread of belief, this contagion of confidence, is what causes inspiration and tells us that we can achieve anything. Without hope, there is no such drive and no such resultant ripple effect. Doing something as simple as volunteering at your local food bank can help inspire both yourself and the people you interact with, ricocheting from volunteer to volunteer, until an entire economy of belief is created, with others buying into a shared vision, selling a collective idea about how the world can be and should be.

For years, Heifer International has been providing “gifts of hope” in the form of goats, chicken, and oxen to impoverished families all over the world. In addition, they run a graduate program in which a family is given a cow, training on how to raise it, cash support, and a micro-savings fund. A study conducted on the graduate program found that after three years the families still maintained the same level of success and stability the program had initially provided. In this case, the organization not only provided a stable foundation on which to build a life, but also created hope in its recipients to break the cycle of poverty and strive for a better life, which in turn morphed into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The human mind is an incredible tool: The now famous placebo effect has shown us the true power that belief has in self-actualizing what we wish to be true. The similar strength of hope is not to be understated. Hope is what inspires resilience. In the darkest of nights and deepest of trenches, hope is the sliver of light peeking in through the cracks that lets you know that not only is a brighter future possible, it is within reach.