Hope is knowing I can handle it

by Catherine Fenwick ã 2000

Hope lights a candle.

Hope discovers what can be done.

Hope draws its power from deep inside.

Hope is the resilience of the human spirit.

Hope is the candle that lights the darkness. It is the power that keeps us going when things get tough. While doing a workshop on Healing With Humour in January, a woman sitting in the front of the room commented with tears in her eyes, "What you are doing is giving people hope!" After the session we talked about how necessary hope is to life. Without hope there is distress, cynicism and despair. "Hope happens somewhere between despair and joy" (Telling My Sister's Story, 1996).

We often say or hear things like, "I hope this new job goes well, I hope I win the lottery, I hope the weather is nice for the wedding, I hope to live to be 96 years old, I hope they find a cure for cancer. If my cancer comes back, I hope I will be able to cope."

These statements describe three levels of hope. The first level of hope could be better named "wishes." This is "win the lottery" hope. The second level is more altruistic, it's the "find a cure for cancer" hope. The third level refers to possibilities beyond wishes and good deeds. This level of hope acknowledges the resilience of the human spirit. It encourages us to carry on. It is the inner strength that says, "I can"

Level three hope recognizes the potential of the human spirit. It gives us the courage to go on, the challenge to start again, the strength to rise above fear, and the will to experience joy. I do not dwell on the possibility of having a cancer recurrence, but the possibility is ever present. I hope it doesn't come back. I hope they find a cure for all of us. I hope I have the inner strength to meet the challenges when times get tough. These are the levels of hope I live with every day.

Hope is really about possibilities. It means having a mind that is open to the great mystery and a heart that is open to receive. Hope is the antidote to fear and despair. When our hearts and minds are closed to possibilities, we lose hope. Hope comes from within. We can develop hope in ourselves by strengthening our inner resources. We can engender hope in others when we have the opportunity to share with them from our inner strength. Just as we can visualize the wished for events, situations, or conditions, we can visualize hope coming from that inner strength. Hope shifts the balance between despair and joy.

Hopeful people have a strong sense of personal power and trust. For them, hope is the energy that propels them to action. Itís that quality that puts us back in charge of our lives when things seem out of control. Roberto Benigni, the acclaimed Italian writer, actor and director of Life is Beautiful shows us the power of hope. Benigni said he always wanted to make a comedy film about life in a concentration camp, but knew it would be difficult to do it well. He did it with courage and grace in this wonderful production. In one scene, Benigni is working as a waiter in the camp, serving dinner to a number of German dignitaries. He has the opportunity to play a beautiful piece of music from an Italian opera and turns the loud speaker toward the women's quarters in the camp, sending powerful messages of hope to his wife. Life is Beautiful is primarily a film about hope. No one can see it without shedding tears. I cried, laughed and learned a lot about hope.

Hope is the spark that keeps possibility alive through the best and the worst of life. We foster hope by emphasizing possibilities rather than limitations. Hope grows when we take responsibility for our lives, go out and learn what we need to know, keep an open mind, and explore options. Hope grows when we trust that we can do what needs to be done. Hopeful people often say, "Yes I can" or "No I choose not to." Instead of running from crises hopeful people move into them, look for the opportunities that are part of the challenge, and learn from these experiences.

Hope is a process that is infinite. It is the spark of the divine in us. Hope keeps us connected to the great mystery. It shows us the circle of life continuing in many series of events that go around and around. The absolutes of good / bad, right / wrong, life / death, and being / nothingness are not part of this process. Absolutes imply a start and a finish, which can create hopelessness. Hope is circular, it is continuation, possibility, infinity. Hope is the potential of the great mystery.

Hope means that we can continue to love life and share joy, no matter what. It means to ignore those who would destroy hope. There is no such thing as false hope because when our wishes for health, wealth and power are not fulfilled, hope always comes through when it is rooted in inner strength. Hope is knowing that we will handle whatever comes with courage, dignity and inner peace. Hope is knowing that Life is Beautiful.



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