I meet on Zoom weekly with a group that is reading Jane Goodall’s The Book of Hope. It recounts the informal conversations held over many days between Ms. Goodall and Douglas Abrams, co-author of The Book of Joy, a record of his conversations with His Holiness the Dali Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
“What gives you hope?” came up early in our sessions. The context of the question was the challenge of maintaining hope during the pandemic shutdown as well as now, when a surplus of uncertainty crowds around us even apart from COVID.
Jane’s answer to the question is that four things give her hope: the amazing human intellect, the resilience of nature, the power of young people, and the indomitable human spirit (and these are the book’s core chapters). Useful as these answers are, there is another, more personal and practical angle to take on the question. So I began making a list of things that helped me maintain hope then (during the shutdown) and now, moving into 2022.
First, I thought of my wife. She’s a planner (I’m not so much), and that provided structure and some assurance that we knew what was coming next. Even mundane things like what’s for dinner tonight and whether we would bike or do yoga the day after tomorrow. She also is my exercise partner, co-teacher of our adult church school class and a loving supporter. Second, I thought of my church, that group of people that is small enough to know just about everybody’s name but large enough to include plenty of diversity. We are just trying to help each other live our lives as Jesus taught us to live them. Third, there are the international music students at Southern Miss whom we have gotten to know and love. They are incredibly talented and dedicated to their craft; and they make wonderful music in the University Symphony Orchestra. We keep up with them, as we can, when they graduate—one in China, one in Canada, and one in Switzerland.
Fourth I thought of work, e.g., preparing for each Sunday’s meeting of our church school class and writing these columns for The Pine Belt News. Both are hard work, but work I love. Fifth, I named exercise above, but I name it again, because I have noticed, as you probably have, that hope is visceral, not just an emotion. Hope and stamina may be close cousins. Finally, I listed Netflix, to stand for all the various media we explored during the lockdown that provided deeply satisfying diversion from the uncertainty that was all around and that lingers still, e.g., Anne With An “E” and Line of Separation. And on PBS Masterpiece Theatre, The Crown, Grantchester, and All Creatures Great and Small.
If you stand back from my list, which was produced rather spontaneously, you will see that, hope for me seems to depend upon supportive relationships, work, exercise, and imagination. That’s my answer to the question, “What gave (or gives) you hope?” And look at what all I left out. It’s embarrassing–books I …….