How much hope is enough? I understand and experience hope to be “leaning into better.” Hope is trusting that as things change, good will come. When we are hopeful, we lean into things getting better, not worse.
Is hope a precious natural resource? Is there a limited amount of hope in the world that we need to carefully monitor? Or is hope a renewable energy, like the wind?
What if hope is sourced from a divine energy, limitless and eternal? Hope never runs out. The supply is unlimited.
We live in a time of a “scarcity culture” says social scientist Brene Brown. A culture of scarcity is where we live in fear of not having enough. If she’s right, then this mentality of scarcity is impacting our national supply of hope. We feel as if we are running low on hope. And too many of us are flat running out of it. Our hope gauge is on empty.
In my conversations with people of all ages, economic, educational, gender, ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds, I hear their stories about struggles with finding hope. The topic of conversation is mental illness specifically, and how we’ve all come to know its impact intimately on our lives. Almost every time the tragedy of suicide is unearthed, along with it is this profound sense of hopelessness.
From listening deeply and seeking to understand from the heart, I’ve come to believe that hope is the very thing that can save us. Without hope, all life ends.
Why do some have hope while others do not? When it comes to suicide, it is one way a person can take action to end pain when there seems to be no hope remaining. No hope of getting better, no hope of recovery, no hope of healing, no hope of being forgiven and loved.
How did hope become so finite and limited? Has our culture of scarcity infected our ability to hope? I believe this flaw in the fabric of our society, the scarcity of hope, is impacting our most vulnerable and is contributing to the highest suicide rates we’ve seen in the U.S. in past three decades.
What can we do to transform a culture of scarcity? Brene Brown suggests “wholehearted” living. This means taking risks to be our authentic selves and being vulnerable, along with believing that we are enough.
I will add that we also need more people who are seers, translators, vessels and communicators of hope. Traditionally this has been a sacred and saving role of faith communities and their leaders. Historically the church offered hope as part of its weekly gospel message. Yet with fewer people entering churches, this hopeful word is reaching fewer and fewer people. The real danger here is not the sustainability of the institution of the church, but the communication and distribution of hope into the world.
We need spaces where we can practice leaning into better, practicing our hope muscles. For a long time, that is what the church provided…what Calvin called “a gymnasium” for the soul.
If hope is a divine, unlimited and eternal resource, then how does it get equally distributed, especially to communities that need it most?
On the other hand, what if we are in a point in time where we are actually running out of hope? Have previous generations used up this precious natural resource called hope? Afterall, we can only lean into things getting better for so long without seeing any significant positive results.
Perhaps like measuring the level of carbon monoxide in the atmosphere, there could be some way to measure the level of despair in the air.
One way to measure the level of despair in a society is by looking at the suicide rate. The statistics on suicide tell us about how much despair is in the atmosphere and which communities are hit hardest. In the U.S., we know that trans youth of color are the most vulnerable to the toxicity of despair. We have counted the dead and the dead do not lie…they have the highest suicide rate.
What does hope, leaning into better, look like for trans youth of color? This is not only important for the sake of saving trans lives, it’s the salvation of the world that is at stake. Living in a world where trans youth are systemically hopeless is not the kind of world we want for our children, is it? If children are dying from despair, what does that say about us, and our society?
How can we cultivate hope with and for people who, driven by despair, are planning to die by suicide?
Is spreading hope enough to save lives? I think it’s worth a try.
Getting more hope into the air is what we all need in order to breathe…in order to live free. Can we create hope-turbines or hope-mills? Or how about hope-panels on our rooftops? In a Dr. Sueuss world, perhaps such hope could be manufactured. But we live in this world that we’ve each helped to create. We need real solutions, hope that we can stand on.
Hope is believing in change for the better. We need one another if real and lasting change is to come.
Things can and will get better. Despair is not forever.
You are loved.
You are forgiven.
Your life is valuable.
You are enough.
Hope is on the way.
Hold on. Hope is coming.