I ended up waiting at a traffic light behind a car with South Carolina plates, and on those plates I read one of the state mottos: While I breathe, I hope. I’d come across that notion in Latin classes, “Dum spiro, spero,” and the sentiment strikes me as something Lord Julian might find useful.
And yet, real hope takes more than breath. Way, way back in my Conflict Transformation program, we learned that hope has been studied by the learned folk who apply for grants. They found that hope cannot be sustained for long without some tangible, observable hints that optimism is justified. Canaries can sing in dark, dusty coal mines, only if a healthy quantity of oxygen is available to them.
To sustain hope, we need two things: Imagination and a sliver of reality-based encouragement. So what, in these trying times, did I see that gave me hope this week? (Besides crocuses!)
The quick lube place I go to is notable for the upbeat and courteous attitude of its staff. Those people act glad to see every customer, and they go about their tasks with alacrity. Somebody dipped them all in the True Elixir of Customer Service, which is lovely in itself. This week, though, I also noticed that half the staff is female. As the first girl to take auto mechanics in my county school system (half a century ago), that sight just warmed the cockles of my float-bowl vent valve.
I have also been tremendously encouraged by time spent with a pair of great-nephews, ages four and two-and-a-half. We hear perpetually that kids today are screen-addicted, they have no imaginations, they can’t hold a conversation if they can text instead, they are physically unfit, they are struggling with post-pandemic everything. Kids are just a mess.
Not these two little guys. They are capable of HOURS of imaginative play. Pirates and dragon-hunters and Lego dragons on the Lego police force, and Play-dough, and on and on. They are perpetual motion machines, and screens in their lives are a controlled rarity permitted only if a parent is watching the same screen. I doubt my great-nephews are all that unusual in having digital native parents who do a better job of managing the various “boob tubes” than the previous generation did. When I hunt a few dragons with these boys, I am filled with optimism (we’re going to make friends with the dragons rather than eat them, according to the expedition leader).
The kids–some kids–are all right.
What else gives me hope, right before my very eyes? The town where I do most of my grocery shopping, two valleys over, has banned single use plastic bags. I realize bans have downsides (people do buy more heavy plastic garbage bags, for example, and those have a larger carbon footprint than the flimsy bags). Yeah-buts notwithstanding, the jurisdiction I refer to is far from progressive. Any regulatory step taken there suggests public concern for the planet, and that’s a good thing. If they can agree to a green step forward one county over…
So I see around me evidence that says hope is justified, though I had to give the whole question of what’s hopeful here and now a think. Maybe in addition to listing five gratitudes every night, I should also start listing some reason to hope.
What has given you hope?
PS: Print version of A Gentleman in Search of Truth now available.