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Hope

February 3, 2007

I’ve been thinking a lot about hope lately.  It was the fairly
mundane task of waiting in line so many times on my trip to Brazil and
Paraguay that initially got my wheels turning.  As I waited first
in a two-hour line to check in with Delta at JFK, then in lines waiting
for buses in Brazil and Paraguay, then another insanely long check-in
line in Salgado Filho International Airport in Porto Alegre, I had
plenty of time to ponder the nature of hope.

My own ability to hope that the many long lines I waited in during my
trip would eventually pick up speed despite hour upon hour of evidence
indicating the contrary got me thinking about the nature of hope. 
How is it that–despite knowing that the line would continue trudging
forward as slowly as it had been since I entered it–whenever the line
inched forward I would get surges of hope that maybe, just maybe,
it would finally begin to pick up more speed?  Why didn’t I just
relinquish myself to the slow pace and let myself enjoy the book I was
reading without putting it down to analyze every step forward?  Is
the line going to move faster this time?  Are the people in front
of me going to give up and abandon the line, leaving me one step closer
to the end? 
No.

This rather superficial reflection led me into deeper reflections on
the nature of hope.  Could it be that this same sense of hope that
enables people to wait in endless lines is related to the sense of hope
that enables desparately poor or ill people to struggle on despite
seeing no end to their troubles?  I admire people who work
god-awful hours at god-awful jobs in order to support their
families.  Could you even imagine the hell that life would be if
you had to spend all of your waking hours doing something you
hated?  I often wonder how I would handle being in such a
situation.  Would I become depressed?  Anxious? 
Suicidal?  Probably the first two, but I can’t picture myself ever
becoming suicidal, precisely because of hope.  I think that just
as I somehow maintained hope that the long lines I was in would speed
up, I would also maintain hope that my life would improve even if I
were stuck at the end of the figurative line.

It’s fascinating that humans are such hopeful creatures; I really
believe it is a defining characteristic of our species.  Think
about it.  We maintain hope (some would call it illusion) in so
many of our everyday situations.  When we’re running late, we hope
the lights will turn green in our favor; when a significant other dumps
us, we hope–for a while at least–that he or she will realize how
perfect we were and come back to us; when we’re going to a movie on
opening night, we hope that everyone else decided it would be too busy
and stayed home; hundreds of thousands of us commute to work everyday
despite knowing that we’ll get stuck in traffic jams and hope that
maybe tomorrow the traffic will be lighter.  Even when we know
we’re not qualified for a job we’ve applied for, we still hope that
something about our resume will stand out to the reviewer and cause
them to call us in for an interview; and even when we wake up to rain
on a special day, we continue to hope throughout the afternoon that the
clouds will clear. 

In an interview in Sun Magazine,
DJ and author Studs Terkel was asked, following a diatribe on the Bush
Administration, “Just one last question:  Are you still hopeful
about this country?”

His response:  “You know what, whether I want to be or not, I have to be.  It’s as simple as that.”

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2 Comments
  1. just stumbled upon your blog…I really love this entry about hope; I totally agree with you. You should watch The Pursuit of Happyness if you haven’t seen it. Or if you’re not into that kind of feel-good movie, check out Children of Men.

  2. cori! in a task long overdue, i was sorting through old emails today (really, to avoid studying for a test i have tomorrow 🙂 and stumbled across one with your blog site. it is nice to reconnect with your deep and sincere musings on deep and sincere realities. indeed, i’ve been meaning to write a hello since our paths crossed at Christmas– delightful!
    the phenomenon of hope does stir something…emotionally, spiritually, psychologically… just this morning i was singing words from scripture, Romans 12.  A part of this passage grounds me in the experiencing hope, and says:
    “Your love must be sincere. Hate what is evil and hold fast to what is good. Be devoted to one another with brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves… Be Joyful in Hope, patient in your trials, faithful in prayer…”  If we allow it, authentic hope has the potential to stir in us abundant Joy. This hope is birthed in us through Christ…Paul talks about it as “Christ in us, the hope of Glory.”  (in colossians 1…had to look that one up! 🙂 
    Certainly this four letter word is deeper than it is long! Please keep reflecting on it as you’re stirred, and if you have a chance, let me know how you are doing!
    — abbey

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