What Makes Us Hopeful?

We’re almost a week into our 365 Days of Hope campaign, and while we clearly have a long way to go still, there seem to be a few trends based on the suggestions we’ve received so far. It got me wondering – what makes us hopeful, and why?

Now of course, we’re all different and everyone has their own reasons for suggesting the photos they did. Maybe it was to feed their (and our) inner child. Maybe they love the item or activity suggested. Maybe it’s what comes to their mind when they specifically think of hope, based on their life and experiences. So far, here’s what I’ve found.

  • Flowers. There were numerous suggestions for flowers, gardens, and things of the like. Flowers and gardens make me think of growth – blooms, or buds that will soon become a bloom. They also make me think of warmer weather, and along with it, sunshine. Anyone who’s struggled with SAD can attest to how warm weather, longer days, and sunshine can feel hopeful.

 

  • Nature. Nature has a way of taking us briefly, out of that finite moment, and helps us soak in the broader aspects of life. It refreshes and rejuvenates me. Which offers hope.

 

  • Childhood fun . From rolling down hills to swinging on swing sets to indulging in treats of our youth, kid-like fun is well represented on our list.  My guess is that childhood makes many of us think of a simpler time – without mortgages and busy work schedules and just general responsibility. It was probably the last time many of us felt carefree, or as close to it as we can come. I also had numerous requests from places and items from my childhood, which I think bring up the same feelings.

 

  • Family. There were a lot of suggestions based on doing things with family and close friends. To me, this highlights our support systems, which can help us keep hope, or in some instances have hope for us, even when we struggle with it ourselves.

 

  • The beach. Let me caveat here that we’re based in the Philadelphia area, with the beach about an hour away. If I lived further inland, it may not be the case. Again, though, I think the beach, and everything surrounding it, reminds people of childhood, family, and vacation (aka a feeling of freedom), all of which, can represent hope.

 

  • Pre-technology/pre-internet times. This one is incredibly interesting. There were numerous suggestions for things like reading an actual newspaper, writing in a journal (not a blog), reading a book (not on an app or kindle), mailing a letter in a mailbox, turning off all electronics. Perhaps it’s that, like some of the above, this seems to transport us to a “simpler” time. Maybe it’s that the constant barrage of posts, alerts, emails, and the like make us feel overwhelmed, and pausing from them helps alleviate that.

 

  • Doing for others. We have suggestions such as donating to charity and to the food bank, saying hello to a stranger, complimenting someone. These truly hit home. I think many of us feel best when helping others. Whether it’s listening to a friend in need, to a random act of kindness, to just being friendly and interacting with those we’d normally pass by staring straight ahead, there’s a feeling of purpose when we feel we’re positively affecting another human, or even animal.

There were plenty of other suggestions that fall outside of, or in between, these trends. Still, these were rather revealing. As adults, we often feel overwhelmed. We’re in a constant routine of work and life and bills, spending our days with electronics and modern technology constantly at us. We have to always be “on”. If we’re battling a mental health condition or chronic illness, we add to that the anxiety or depression or pain or physical difficulties or exhaustion (and so much else) that come with these. And because of this, feeling loved and safe with our support systems, being reminded of times when things were simpler, where our goal seemed to be to have fun and enjoy life to the fullest, and where hope was as easy as saying hi to someone we didn’t know. Of course, there are exceptions as there are to everything. But these suggestions, and the fun we’re having doing these activities and taking these photos, are a valuable lesson. It’s possible to find hope in the tiniest thing, the smallest moment. And they give me something to go back to when my illness is rearing it’s head (literally, in my case), and I feel so hopeless. Perhaps I can look at these photos, remember these moments, and be reminded of that there is hope, after all.

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