After a full and invested life connecting, collaborating, and appreciating a wide variety of amazing people, I’ve realized that there is one valuable element that every man, woman, and child simply cannot do without. Hope. Take a look at the vast collection of those you’ve known and loved through the years. Some are naturally joyful and have a view of the sun no matter how cloudy the day. Others experience a touch of melancholy that can come and go, but their smile is never extinguished for good; it seems to always finds its way through the momentary gloom to shine brightly again. While most of us ward off passing sorrows and find a way to remember and live in the abundance of love that surrounds us, not everyone has that option. No, I’m sorry to say. And there is nothing so tragic as someone who has lost the ability to hope.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” – Proverbs 13:12
Hopelessness. Even the word sounds dismal and destructive. When hope is lost, a human’s ability to interact with others is radically challenged. When hopelessness takes hold, the ripple effect can be far-reaching, carrying a person away from their support system and into a never-ending current of depression. This can also bleed into their secondary groups as well as the community that tends to alienate them further.
Within prison populations—before, during, and after incarceration—individuals can suffer from a lack of passion that cripples the present and skews their vision of the future. Their life purpose is diminished to mundane and trivial pursuits often perpetuating poor choices. Our prison system is full of those who have lost hope long before they arrived in their jail cell. In the worst-case scenario, the loss of hope can bring with it apathy, behaviors detrimental to one’s safety and wellbeing, and even suicide.
“Life without faith in something is too narrow a space to live.” – George Lancaster Spalding
It always hurts my heart when I hear of someone who has chosen suicide referred to as a coward or a quitter. Losing sight of a bright tomorrow doesn’t mean you’re afraid or weak. I believe it’s an acute emotional blindness that begins when we’re young and distorts and damages sound judgement. The only answer they feel that is left to them is to end the pain in the only way they know-how. When hopelessness highjacks the human spirit, a chain reaction starts in the brain chemistry that begins a downward spiral leading to deeper despair. There is nothing weak or cowardly about it. For some, it’s a chronic condition, but there is an answer that can still prevail in light of their present darkness.
“It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are still alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger for them.” – George Eliot
But how do we instill Hope in the hopeless? I’ve seen it and I’ve lived it, and the answer is clear. To create a series of successful events within the person’s life through family love, community support, and spiritual encouragement. Sound easy? No, you’re right… it isn’t. It takes a supernatural effort from within to overcome the driving force of hopelessness. But joined with a defense of trusted people willing to help carry the burden—committed and accountable—and validate the victories one day at a time, successful “sunny” days can be found ahead. We, as parents, teachers, church leaders, friends, and family should become more observant of those tell-tell signs preceding hopelessness, and be prepared to do whatever is necessary to help that individual.
“No matter what happens, keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you find that you have accomplished a purpose—not the one you began with perhaps, but one you will be glad to remember.” – Anne Sullivan
As a group or government, investing in the infrastructure of our disadvantaged communities is an absolute necessity to bring healing and restoration back into our midst. Everyone needs to feel fulfilled, and there are programs available that offer purpose, even the building of self-esteem and work ethic. To me, these positions are far more rewarding as they develop pride and a sense of community as a whole.
Hope is one of those words that we talk a lot about and use quite often, but we rarely understand the fullness and gravity of its ultimate function in our mental health and happiness. When hope is lost, we all lose. And if hope is now or has ever been elusive to you or someone you know, it’s time to return to those goals, desires, and dreams that you once embraced, while supporting the same in others.
“As I started looking, I found more and more.” – Valerie Steele
Hope creates a better world!