Hope Against Hope

Like Jay Gatsby, we humans have an extraordinary gift for hope. Despite dark days we have this incredible ability to seek solutions to problems, all the while believing that the light will come to shine once more.

It’s not always easy, and there are some who can access this precious gift more readily than others, but it is always available if we remind ourselves to seek it out. This involves a journey of discovery, of course, as we stumble along life’s often difficult roads, but it shines up ahead if we lift our eyes to find it.

Hope isn’t quite the same thing as optimism – rather than blindly assuming that all will be well, it offers us agency and sees a future that we can play our part in shaping. Clinging to hope during adversity is often the only option open to us.

Mady Gerrard was 14 when she was taken from her home in Hungary to Auschwitz concentration camp. Despite the horrors she witnessed there she was somehow able to hold onto hope. She made knitting needles from twigs, made necklaces from scraps of metal and today, having recently celebrated her 90th birthday, Mady continues to shine with that hope that pulled her through the darkest of times. “Don’t give up hope,” she says, while knitting mask protectors for NHS staff, cross that she can’t hug loved ones but hopeful for a brighter tomorrow.

As others have said in similar circumstances, hope is the last thing to die. Life is tough, scary, uncertain. It is often a challenge to navigate and to find our place. But when we hold out for hope we find better physical and mental health, and we find ourselves able to reach out to others too. Mady made necklaces in the dark. We can do the same in the knowledge that brighter days are surely ahead.

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.”

Emily Dickinson

Christmas is almost upon us, a time of immeasurable hope. And at the end of the darkest of years for so many, with yet more restrictions in place and more uncertainty ahead, I plan to picture this feathery bird coming to rest on my shoulders and singing no matter what.

Hope is about the future. It is wide open and full of endless possibilities. Listen for its song, feel its wings. Hold onto it and soon it will fly free once again.

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