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In Sight of Ourselves: 5. Hope (November 9, 2001)

Hope means to entertain a wish for something with some expectation of success. The word "hope" is derived from the Old English, hopian, meaning wish and expect, to look forward to something.

When my son Bill was about eight years old, I once drove him to school while wrapped in a rather melancholy mood. I told him I was feeling sad and quiet, making sure he understood that he had nothing to do with my emotions. Bill listened carefully; then looked at me seriously and reached across the front seat. He patted my leg gently and said in a clear, firm voice, "Dad, you just gotta have hope." At that moment, I finally understood Kahlil Gibran's words, "He alone is great who turns the voice of the wind into a song made sweeter by his own loving." Bill was right. We just gotta have hope.

Research shows that children who are resilient, meaning that they can somehow manage adversity, are found to have hope. Whether it is a death in the family or violence in school, resilient children believe that if they work hard and keep trying, things will work out for them. Children who do not have such hope in the face of life challenges are more vulnerable-they are more likely to suffer depression, take drugs, or act out in some unhealthy manner. The African American poet Langston Hughes wrote, "When dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly. When dreams go, life is a barren field, frozen with snow." Hopelessness will drive someone to despair or rage. But with hope, everything is possible. A child can stand up against a bully, build a tower of blocks, sit down to read a book. None of these things are possible without hope.

Hope begins when children are young and hear words of encouragement from a loved. "You can do it! Yes you can!"

We all need a hope tree to shelter us in our darkest moments. The White Rose, a movement of a small group of young Germans during WWII who opposed Hitler, collapsed when several of its leaders, among them Hans and Sophie Scholl, were executed. After they died, Ilse Aichinger saw a wall poster proclaiming the names of the young people who had been condemned to death. "I read the names of the White Rose," she recalled. "I had never heard of any of them. But as I read those names an inexpressible hope leaped up in me... and I was not the only one who felt this way....We didn't have much of a chance to survive, but that was not what it was about. It wasn't survival. It was life itself that was speaking to us through the death of the Scholls and their companions.... You can live without owning anything. But you can't live without having something ahead of you, ahead of you in the sense of something inside of you. You can't live without hope."

Courage is possible only when hope gives it wings. Sticking out our chin in the face of adversity is only possible with hope. Our children need to see us believing that we can overcome what seems to be impossible despite setbacks that would discourage lesser people. Together, we gotta have hope.

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