Oftentimes we think of hope as a feeling. Perhaps we see it as a personality trait—some people are just more hopeful, happy, upbeat, than others. In a world that faces so many challenges, hope cannot compete with skepticism and “realism.” Many times hope is seen as synonymous with naivete. But I’d like to put forward the idea that not only is hope a necessary part of being human, it is much more than a pleasant, fleeting emotion. Hope, properly understood, is a habit. Thankfully for us, habits can be learned!
Before we dive too deeply into the subject, maybe we should pause for a moment to reflect on a working definition for hope. It seems easy enough; we hope for things that we don’t currently possess but would like to possess eventually. When hope is not misplaced, we desire things that are not impossible to achieve, although they may be difficult. What kinds of things do we hope for? Sometimes we hope for material things; we hope we will receive a raise, a certain gift, we hope that we will receive love or attention from certain people. On a broader scope we may hope for peace in our families or communities, we may hope for an end to suffering of all kinds, we may hope for peace.
Oftentimes our hope in these great things can be overshadowed by our doubts. Peace, unity, love—at times these lofty ideas can seem unattainable, impossible. I don’t think that they are, but I do think that if left in broad, generalized terms, they will always be.
I suggest that we first take a good look around us. Hope can begin by first opening our eyes. Before we can truly hope, we need to see some evidence for the things we hope for. What good is already being done in your local community? If you can’t see it, look harder. What specific needs are being met by others just like you (need help? Check out Volunteer Match to get started)?
How are they specifically meeting their desire for peace? What does peace look like in these situations? Now think about how you can achieve this in your own unique way. Real actions, no matter how small, help to stoke the fires of hope. They show you that what you hope for is achievable.
Once you've seen real evidence for hope in your community, you can begin to look for ways in which to offer your time and resources. Even committing to 30 minutes or an hour a week to helpful service can bolster hope, not only within yourself, but within your community. How can your actions, however small, inspire hope in another? Continual actions of looking for good and doing good build the habit of hope.
We know it may be hard to see the good right now. That’s why our team has made a list of the good we see in our local communities. Staying informed and involved with local efforts keeps us inspired and hopeful!
I am deeply impressed by Westside Pacific Village’s neighborhood outreach programs. During the COVID-19 crisis, they have been connecting volunteers with the elderly neighbors in the South Bay. WPV’s mission and work has always been focused on supporting the oldest residents in our community by enabling them to remain active and engaged in the homes and neighborhoods they love, combating another serious health risk and epidemic for seniors, social isolation and loneliness.
Jasmine is inspired by the Patchwork Project, an LA-based organization that seeks to promote sustainable fashion choices. Check them out on Instagram, @thepatchworkproj.
Eugenie is inspired by Aaron Beck, who at age 97 has focused on developing a recovery program for people with serious mental illness. The program seeks to work on strengths, interests and motivations to help people engage in the world.
What inspires you to hope? How can you inspire hope in others?