Happy New Year. The best wish I can send to you is that you always have the strength to choose hope and faith no matter what happens – and I really believe it is a choice. It is like choosing optimism over pessimism.
Throughout the 22 years I worked in social services I helped many people who were in need of the basics of survival – shelter, food, clothes, medical care. I know this work was valuable but along the way I learned something even more valuable – the hope you give someone is just as important as the material assistance itself. One definition of hope is “a chance that something desirable will happen or be possible”. Of course, you can’t really give someone hope but we all have the ability to shine a light to help someone who is stumbling in the dark. At least then they have a chance of finding hope inside themselves.
For this phase of my life I am trying to find ways to shed light on that intangible human need – hope – in a different way; with my artwork and writing. Even if it is something as simple as one of my greeting cards putting a smile on someone’s face and lifting their spirits for a moment. I have discovered that this also helps to keep my own focus on hope. I don’t speak from a position of superiority; I know that life has many more unknown challenges in store for me and can throw a curve ball at any time. I write about what I have already experienced and learned and share these things in the hope that I am shining some light in a dark corner. Over the years, many people have illuminated the path for me and reminded me that I can overcome my struggles when I have hope. This is not to say that I have never felt hopeless; this is to say that I always knew that if I could get back to hope I would prevail. So, if you’re struggling with your self-esteem, your family, a difficult relationship, financial problems, unemployment – I’ve been there, too, and I know that finding and staying connected to hope is essential. You can accept the kindness of others and listen to their advice but then you have to find hope by yourself because no one can give it to you.
I haven’t had to overcome the kind of difficulties that so many of my former clients faced but I learned another important lesson from them – don’t ever compare your problems to those of others. We all have our burdens and everything is subjective. The important thing is to learn from your difficult times and apply those lessons in the best way you can. Socrates said “The unexamined life is not worth living”. I couldn’t agree more and have known many people who seem to just drift along, unthinkingly repeating the same dumb mistakes and causing pain to themselves and everyone around them. Every time we have to go through the darkness we get to experience the beauty of the light and start all over again but how we go about that is an individual choice. Unfortunately, some of us have to repeat the same experiences over and over until we finally get the message! Anybody see the movie “Groundhog Day”?
It’s easy to understand how someone can feel hopeless when confronted with serious life challenges and, yet, I have met many people who still have hope and that other elusive intangible, faith, while dealing with very difficult situations. Why are they able to have hope and faith when so many others don’t? Is it because they have faith in God? Not always. The dictionary says that faith is “belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof”. Another definition comes from the bible “… Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) We often relate faith to a belief in God but I’m reminded by the dictionary definition that faith is really just a matter of trusting in somebody or something – whatever sustains and comforts you – and it might be that you simply have a strong faith in yourself and your ability to overcome hardship (where that faith comes from is a topic for another day). Whether it is faith in a Higher Power or faith in yourself I think it comes down to the same thing – you believe that there is a chance that something desirable will happen or be possible and that, somehow, you will have whatever is needed to make it happen.
I used the first stanza of the beautiful poem by Emily Dickinson, “Hope is the Thing with Feathers” in my illustration above – here is the rest of it:
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet, never, in Extremity –
It asked a crumb – of Me.
I’ll be presenting a SELF (Self-confidence, Empowerment, Love, Freedom) seminar on Tuesday, January 8th from 7 to 8 pm at Christmas Come True (yellow building at the corner of A1A and 14th St. North, Flagler Beach). I’ll be focusing on the first two letters because I believe they are so interconnected and I also have a very special DVD I want to share with you so, if you’re near Flagler Beach, please join me and the wonderful Stella. There is no fee for the seminar but a $10 (or whatever you can afford) love offering for Christmas Come True would be much appreciated. Please call Nadine at 386-569-4429 to register.