Reasons for Hope

Without hope, life is pretty dark. 

Hope is the faith we hold for a better future and the confidence we have in our ability to help bring it about. Hope motivates us to meet the challenges we face, even in tough and uncertain times. It’s an attitude we carry that we can make it through and make it better.

Our capacity for hope is influenced by external factors we can’t control. Given what I see in the news, it’s easy to lose hope that the world can right itself. But the most significant factors maintaining hope are internal – our ability to direct our attention to what’s going right and our faith that we can take action to create positive change.

Let me give you two examples I recently learned about that make me hopeful. 

Emma’s Torch

It’s heartbreaking to watch the growing refugee crisis that is engulfing the globe. War, gang violence, climate change, and economic devastation are forcing millions of families to abandon their homelands in order to survive. This mass migration is straining the financial, logistical and emotional resources of receiving countries, causing political backlash and xenophobic reactions. Watching the images on TV makes me cringe.

But organizations like Emma’s Torch are taking action to help. Emma’s Torch is a non-profit social enterprise that trains refugees in the culinary arts. Each student gets an eleven-week apprenticeship with 400 hours of instruction, including language and job skills.

The training is provided free of charge. And, the student is paid a full-time minimum wage salary while enrolled.

Emma’s Torch works with the New York restaurant scene, always hungry for skilled staff, to place its students in well-paying jobs. In 2022, they trained over 100 refugees with an 89% job placement rate and 87% job retention rate after six months, unheard of in the industry. Most meaningful of all, graduates earn an average salary five times their pre-program earnings.

Zirkulu

The news reports on climate change, depletion of natural resources, and environment degradation are bleak. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change documents a rise in global temperatures of 1.1 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, causing disastrous effects on weather, crops, habitats, sea levels, and economies worldwide. These reports can leave us feeling grim.

But many companies are rising to meet the challenge. Zirkulu, based in Kinsale, Ireland, is one of those companies. They sell high-performance outdoor gear made from renewable materials. Zirkulu integrates sugarcane fibers into their products (material that would otherwise be thrown away) reducing the need for petroleum-based products. They also use ZQ merino wool from farms using high standards for animal welfare and environmental sustainability. Their cotton is organically grown and ethically sourced. 

Zirkulu is committed to a circular economy, not an extractive economy. Their most exciting feature is their Take Back Program. At the end of its useful life, Zirkulu will take back its products and credit you for a new one. Instead of being landfilled, the returned item is sent to a recycling partner and deconstructed into materials for other uses. 

I am not minimizing the severity of the challenges we face, and I appreciate the hard work of organizations that publicize these and other important issues. Economic disruption, income disparity, artificial intelligence, pandemics, political instability, authoritarian governments, increasing homelessness, opioid addiction, social media distraction, rising suicide rates, all of these deserve attention.

But focusing on headlines without a belief in our collective human ability to address them drains our hope. For every one of these seemingly intractable problems, there are people with creative ideas who are jumping in and putting their shoulders to the wheel.

The lens we look through filters what we see. The more we focus on threats, the more threatening the world becomes. Alternatively, the more we look for people doing something good, the more hopeful we are that we can make it through and make it better.

If you are up for a challenge, consider this assignment:  identify one issue that is vitally important to you. Spend ten minutes researching organizations working toward positive change on your issue. You may be surprised at the good news you find.

Five bonus points if it’s a local group; ten bonus points if you give them a call and ask how you can help.

I guarantee you’ll feel more hope.

Website images, https://zirkulu.com and https://emmastorch.org/

6 Replies to “Reasons for Hope”

  1. Practical guidance on how to kindle hope. But what of courage that can turn a hopeful course of action into reality?

    1. Courage is a fascinating topic. I would like to hear more about what you mean. For me, I think we need courage to act to foster goodness even if we don’t have assurance that we will be successful.

  2. I once read that the greatest sin was fear.

    Yes, we need courage to act in a world that is filled with suffering. We need the courage to suffer.

    But how do we attain that courage?

    I recall as a child tremulously approaching the high dive at our public swimming pool. I cautiously ascended the ladder and slowly walked to the end of the diving board. Perhaps knowing that other children were waiting their turn encouraged me to hurry up and put my arms over my head and tilt forward. The next thing I knew was that I was safely in the water with a feeling of elation. I had conquered my fear!

    But it was a small victory and my fear of life, of reality, was large.

    Perhaps the question, “How do I free myself from fear?” is the beginning of true meditation.

    1. That’s a great story about meeting your fear on the high dive. It shows both the trepidation about acting, and also the elation of acting.

      I am not sure we ever free ourselves from fear, not while living in a human body. Maybe the question is, how do we navigate with fear and still move ahead?

  3. If I understand you correctly Steve, you see hope as leading to action. I guess the opposite would be no hope leading to despair? What sustains me and stops me despairing is trust – trust that ultimately all WILL be ok; trust that the fact that I don’t understand how it will be ok is ok too; trust that whatever is needed for any resolution might not happen in my lifetime (souls don’t work on a linear model); trust that my soul will guide me if only I’ll put my ego aside; remembering that I am living on one piece of a jigsaw and don’t and can’t see the full picture.

    For me, hope can be empty, flimsy. Trust is solid and settles into my bones.

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