Sometimes it’s the small moments that make the biggest impact.
There’s this feeling. It’s powerful. It shapes the decisions you make in the present and forecasts how you see your future. With it, you have motivation to pursue goals and think ahead. Without it, it’s hard to even visualize a future, let alone carve a path towards it. This feeling, it’s hope.
Experts describe hope as an emotional state. Having hope strengthens a person’s coping ability against feelings like despair or hopelessness. Having higher levels of hope actually increase an individual’s problem-solving abilities. It allows a person to more effectively cope with the present because they look towards the future.
Hope can also help you heal. No, really. Jerome Groopman, a researcher in the area of hope, claims, “Belief and expectation-the key elements of hope- can block pain by releasing the brain’s endorphins and enkephalins, mimicking the effects of morphine,” which can lead to positive outcomes for “respiration, circulation and motor function.” This is exactly the emotional state, a hopeful outlook, that leads to the placebo effect in medical trials. Individuals are hopeful a medication will treat symptoms, and this hope leads to the actual alleviation of symptoms.
Looking for a way to exercise more regularly and eat better? Hope may be also your answer. People with high levels of hope visualize an image of their future, and this imagery assists them in creating daily habits. They are more likely to consume a better diet and exercise more, helping prevent illness and chronic disease.
Duane Bidwell and Dr. Donald Batisky, researchers in this area, identified access points for hope in children with end-stage renal disease. These include (1) assuring they maintain their identity outside their disease and treatment; (2) forming community so they are not alone during their struggle; (3) claiming power by being active participants with goal setting, advocacy and self-monitoring; (4) participating in spiritual activities; (5) developing wisdom and finding ways to give back.
These ideals could be applied to any one of us. Who doesn’t want to maintain their identity, form community, actively participate in their future, develop spiritually and find ways to give back? These all sound like a great way to choose to live life and harbor hope.
Hope is often found in ordinary moments. For example, recently we got word of a high school grad living in a tent pitched in a relative’s yard. His parents had left him alone, fending for himself. He was studying to take his last test before enlisting in the Marines. But, he was bordering on hopelessness. He was fighting constant hunger, the wet, humid weather, mosquitos and even wildlife consuming his precious stores of food. Each day was a battle.
But then, little packages started to arrive from people like you. They were packed with nonperishable food, a bin to keep it safe, bug spray and notes with words of encouragement. He started to hope. He started to envision a future beyond his present and work towards it. Each day he walks to the local bookstore and studies for hours, determined to have a brighter future. He also started to sense his community after feeling so alone for so long.
Rumor has it he’s going to be taking that test soon, and his tutor says he’s ready to go. Would he have gotten this far without hope? Who knows. But, it certainly didn’t hurt. These small items provided him the relief and space in his mind he needed to hope for a brighter future and work towards it.
So, for so many of the individuals on the other side of your giving, it’s about hope. To you it might just be diapers or art supplies you’re sending, but it’s much more than that for those receiving your generosity. They get the space to start thinking about the future and not worrying so much about the present. These items are beacons of hope, and let’s keep sending them.