Tiny Hopes Every Day

I’ve not blogged in awhile. I’ve been going through a particularly rough patch, and quite frankly, been struggling with my own hope. It happens to all of us, it seems. So I’ve been focusing on trying to get myself healthy and hopeful, because if I’m not, I’m unable to truly help others.

Sometimes, in the bleakest moments, hope seems dim indeed. In these moments, I’m forced to look for hopes in the tiniest things. The way my dog greets me when I arrive home. Every day. Like it’s the best moment she’s ever experienced.  She has infallible hope, and I think, “Man, I wish I could be like her. She’s literally always convinced something great is about to happen.  I can’t unfortunately. I say can’t, because I really mean I can’t. I battle depression, and when it flares badly, I physically, mentally cannot think life is roses, no matter how badly I want to.

So lately, I’ve had to get back to basics. I’ve had to focus on those tiny moments in life that bring some brightness – the smell of rain, a colorful sunrise, a much needed hug, an unexpected moment of laughter, spending time in the fresh air. These brief moments of brightness tell me that I can, after all, be hopeful. It might not be earth shattering hope, but there is a brightness. The world, and I, am not full of darkness.

So I resolve to live these moments more completely. To enjoy the fresh air more. To see more sunrises (morning insomnia makes this pretty easy). To hug more, when my physical closeness meters allow it. To spend more time, in person or virtually, with people who make me laugh. To focus more on living, and less on the “have to”s. And somewhere in there, I aim to offer hope, to myself and to others. Because sometimes, it’s in offering to others that we find the greatest hope in ourselves.

 

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My dog Grace finding complete delight in a paper towel roll.

Spreading Hope One Cause at a Time

There’s been a ridiculous amount of negative occurrences going on in the world lately. At times, I think it’s easy to feel downright hopeless, or at least struggle to find much hope. I understand it. The number of times lately that the nightly news has had to expand to a multi-hour program to cover the unfolding of disastrous events – natural and otherwise – has been entirely too high. Not to mention the every day life situations we all have to deal with that can bring us down. And for those that battle anxiety and depression, who may already be wrestling with the trying to find hope, the struggle goes even deeper.

But I refuse to give up on hope. I watch the good in people – the people who protect others, complete strangers sometimes, at risk of their own lives. The people I personally know who have traveled to hurricane regions to help out, simply because they want to do something to ease the suffering of people who are losing so much. And then there’s the everyday actions that most people may never even know about – the kid who stands up for another classmate being bullied, the person who quietly helps out an important community cause without any fanfare or desire for recognition. I could go on all day listing examples. These are the people that tell me all is not lost. Good people exist in the world.  We have reason to have hope.

Spread Hope Project is not a huge organization. We don’t have money pouring in. We don’t have hundreds of participants and volunteers. In fact, we are quite far from that. But we can still help. We can still offer hope. So over the next few months, we will be regularly posting causes (via our super high-tech paper and marker hand-made signs), and asking for your suggestions for ways to help. It may be that we are looking to donate school supplies, for instance, and looking for a school that could benefit. It may be that we’re looking for program suggestions for specific causes (say, your suggestions for animal-related causes, for example). It may be a free-for-all cause/organization shout out – name any smaller cause that needs the help but doesn’t get the attention it deserves! We may not be able to help everyone, but we’ll choose at least one suggestion from each post to help. We don’t have a massive amount of funding, so we’re looking for ways to help that aren’t just monetary. It could be volunteering or organizing an event or drive. It could be something as helping in an awareness campaign.

So stay tuned, and make sure to follow our Instagram and Facebook pages for more updates!

 

Offering Hope in the Wake of Natural Disasters – A Question

Hi all, it’s been a minute. We were doing the whole getting married thing! But we’re back, until our honeymoon at the end of next week. But while we’ve been merrily (marry-ly? sorry couldn’t help myself) celebrating our wedding with our closest family and friends, mother nature has been wrecking havoc on so many people’s lives. Houston, Florida, St. Martin, Puerto Rico, the earthquake in Mexico City area. The tiny island of Dominica, a place that stole my heart when I visited on a cruise 13 years ago, is said to basically be destroyed. People who had so little (besides copious amounts of natural beauty), and have now lost virtually all of it. The little island of Barbuda is said to have had it’s civilization wiped out. Such destruction and sadness.

I am lucky to have not had to deal with it first hand, and that those I know in these areas are safe and sound. Still, as a highly sensitive person who feels things especially deeply, it does affect me – not, of course to the degree of those physically affected or with loved ones struggling in these locations, I’d never compare it to that. Still, the sadness I feel at the destruction, the lives altered and lost, at times overwhelms me.  I look at the TV, I read the articles, I see the photos and think, “I have to help.” The fact that I don’t feel I am is crushing to me. And yet, I feel frozen. Other than monetarily, which I only have so much of, I don’t know how.  Or at least, I don’t know how I can realistically help.  I get emails asking for money for every destination, and yet I don’t have much to give. I receive the emails about fostering dogs that were abandoned and think, “I want to foster them all!” But I neither have the space or the resources to do so. (I realize dogs are not people, but still at least it would be a way to kind of help). I think, “I should just fly down and be there!”, but I also want to keep my jobby-job (i.e. day job that pays me), and I can’t just up and leave with every natural disaster that strikes, which seems to be happening almost daily. Nor do I have the resources (i.e. funds) to do so. One day, I hope that Spread Hope Project will be large enough to be able to do this regularly, but today is not the day.

So I’m wondering, how can I help? How can I offer these people hope, when they have lost so much. What can I, and the Spread Hope Project, reasonably do? I’m truly asking. Can I donate clothing, food, supplies? Are there things I can do from afar, that aren’t just donating money (I don’t mind donating, but after a while I just don’t have the funds)? I’d love to hear your suggestions – especially perhaps the lesser known opportunities that aren’t getting as much public attention, but would still help those affected.

Thank you, for any ideas you can offer!

 

50 States of Hope

Every day, I read about different community projects happening in my home city of Philadelphia and the surrounding areas. It truly inspires me, and I think of the hope that these people are bringing – to those that they’re helping specifically, to the community, and to each other (being surrounding by others wanting to make positive change is certainly hopeful). And hopefully, pun kind of intended, to themselves. I know that for me, the fact that there are good people in the world, nearby even, and that we can bring about positive changes together gives me hope.

And yet I realize how few of these projects I participate in. Not because I don’t want to, but because I learn about them and think, “Oh I should look into that”, and then life happens and I remember about it too late, or there’s a scheduling conflict, or I get overwhelmed and need to take a step back from involvement. Or perhaps, I don’t hear about these at all. Maybe it’s a small, local project that I’m unaware of until it’s too late to participate. Or I hear about it after the fact somehow.

So I decided I needed to do something about this. I want to be more involved in these efforts, to bring awareness to some that may not get as much notice, and to participate in more of those that I keep saying “next time” to.  With that, I’ve started the the 50 States of Hope goal. I would like to be involved in at least one project that helps at least one person in all 50 states. Now of course, I could pick one large event for a cause that affects people in every state. And I might well participate in this simply because I think it worthy. But I’d also like to participate in those that are more local. Perhaps it’s simply a locally organized event of a larger organization. Or maybe it’s writing an anonymous letter of hope to someone struggling. Or a toy or book drive for children who are in the hospital.  It could be participating in something to help local community arts. Maybe it’s a local community garden project, or something to help local school children. What I want is to really feel my contribution is helping people, and that perhaps I’m bringing awareness to a worthy project or cause that may not have enough awareness on it.

But I of course don’t regularly frequent all 50 states to know exactly what local events and projects are going on. So that’s where you all come in. I’m looking for suggestions. What’s going on in your area? Do you have a project, perhaps one that helps your community, or one nearby, that you’re passionate about? Do you know someone, or know of someone, who could use a letter of hope. Do you know someone who runs a local project or campaign for a cause?  I’d love to learn more about it.

Now please keep in mind that I have a day job and am not independently wealthy so, while I’d truly love to one day do so, I cannot currently travel the country full time offering hope, and may need to get a little creative with some. And I’d rather it not be strictly a monetary donation, not only because I’m not independently wealthy but because I’d like to get my hands dirty a bit. To feel more actively involved, even if it’s simply collecting toys or books or games or school supplies or food or whatever it is. So please, send your suggestions my way either here, on social media, or via email at thespreadhopeproject@gmail.com.  If I am able to participate in the project you suggest, I promise to give it a shout out on social media, the blog, wherever I can, and if you’d like, to give you one too for making the suggestion (this part isn’t mandatory if you’d prefer to stay anonymous).

Thanks in advance! I look forward to hearing your suggestions!

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What Is Hope?

Since starting Spread Hope Project, I’ve been asked this question several times. It’s a completely valid question, being that my goal is to spread hope.  And yet, it somehow trips me up. Hope has always been to me one of those things that just is.  It’s difficult to describe without using the word itself. And yet, to each of us, it most likely looks a little different.

In terms of spreading hope itself, my goal is to help people that are struggling to feel that something good, positive, or at least better than how they currently feel, is possible. When used in the context or mental health, it could mean that their depression can improve with proper treatment, or that they’ll find a way to work through their anxiety, able to manage it better, or simply that the anxiety attack or bout of depression won’t last forever.  For others, it could mean learning confidence and improving their self-esteem when depression knocks it so low. For some it could have a broader reach – it could be feeling less lost in life, or less alone in their illness. It could be feeling like they and their life matter. It could be connecting with others who understand, who can offer support when needed, or who can help motivate and inspire them.

Hope is surprisingly tricky to describe in and of itself, I’ve found upon trying. It isn’t even, at least to me, a determined belief or strongly held conviction. It’s a possibility. A possibility that things could improve, that there’s something to look forward to. It doesn’t have to be based in fact or knowledge.  It can come from a feeling, even a flicker of one.  It can come from knowing that there’s even one other person who may understand, or one instance of feeling like you matter. It doesn’t require evidence or proof.  You don’t have to know that something will happen to have hope. You just have to feel that their may be the possibility. At least that’s how it seems to me.

And so, in my efforts to spread hope, I try to work with both the details and the general feeling. At times, I speak specifically to mental health and chronic illness. Other times, I try to focus more on confidence or self esteem. Other times still, I try to simply let people know that, however they are feeling, they aren’t alone, and that they matter.

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365 Days of Hope

We’re rolling out a fun new campaign! One that we didn’t list in the May blog post, but hey, sometimes ideas just pop up out of nowhere. So here we go.

We’re gathering 365 ideas of “things” – anything, really – that we can take photos with in our Hope shirts. It can be anything from a cup of coffee to a sunset to the Eiffel Tower or even an activity (that won’t get us arrested/fired). Hey, you might even get us to see or try something new! So far, we’ve been given suggestions such as:

  • A rainbow
  • A wild animal in the wild (where we can do so safely!)
  • The beach
  • A music festival
  • A brewery
  • A famous art sculpture
  • An alpaca
  • Riding a bike

As you can see, your suggestions can be as specific or as general as you’d like. We might need to be creative at times, but we’re going to try to post one each day (some of which may have to be “later grams”, since we can’t really determine when we might see things like a rainbow or a wild animal in the wild). You are allowed to give us a specific place, but if you are not the proprietor of said place, we just need to ask their permission to tag them and prove it’s there. If we are not allowed to, we may need to generalize the suggestion (i.e. to “a coffee shop” or “a brewery”). If you are the proprietor, by all means, thank you for letting us take a photo there!

So please, fire away! There’s no bad suggestion, assuming it’s not illegal, immoral, or might injure us.  We’d love to experience new things and have new adventures along the way, so have at it! We can’t wait to see what you come up with.

Why Do You Spread Hope?

Starting this Sunday (March 26th), we’ll be running a one-week Instagram challenge. Each day, we’ll be asking people to share why (and how!) they spread hope, using the hashtag #whyispreadhope. It can be a picture of your efforts, with those that you’re spreading hope to, or simply a selfie explaining with a caption saying what you do and why. It can be a hand written signs or arts and crafts are fine. Heck, it can just be you wearing purple, the color of the Spread Hope Project, with a caption as simple as “I spread hope because hope matters.”  However you want to share your reason, share it. Of course, we’ll be sharing our “why” each day.

Why are we hosting this challenge? It’s simple really. The more people that share their story, the more people we reach. They reach their friends, their friends reach their friends, and the spread of hope continues on. We know it takes courage to put yourself and your stories out there like this, and we want to show people that it’s OK to share. You don’t have to be an expert or a professional or a writer or even a casual blogger. You just have to snap a pic and say “here’s why I do this”.

Everyone deserves to feel like they matter. They deserve to feel like someone wanted to reach them, and that they have the ability to help someone else, even if it’s simply by posting a photo and a hashtag.

We can’t wait to see what you have to share! See you on the Instagram side!

 

Why I Spread Hope

We’re Headed to Africa!

The goal of the Spread Hope Project is to, as it sounds, spread hope, to as many places and people near and far as we can. In February, we have a fantastic opportunity to head to Africa, Kenya and Tanzania to be specific.  We’ll be there for almost two weeks, heading first to Nairobi, then to the Masai Mara, over the Serengeti, and finally, the Ngorogoro Crater.

We will be taking Hope photos in our various destinations, sharing our journey through these countries with you.  Make sure to follow us on Instagram to keep up today on our photos!