Where's your hope at?
Between Christmas and New Year 2021 I put out five short podcasts for people who find this time of the year hard. I based them all on hope and called them Hopelets. And since I had the transcripts from them, I decided to also put them in a blog post.
25 December - Hopelet 1: When your hope is small
Hello, I'm Claire, from The Silent Why, and over the next week I’m putting out a Hopelet on all the days we don’t have other episodes being published. Five audio shorts for you to assess ‘Where’s your hope at?’ Sings: ‘Where’s your hope at, at? Where’s your hope at?’ (Sorry I based the title around the Basement Jaxx’s song ‘Where’s your head at?’ And I feel like I have to do it!). Anyway, I’m doing this to help you through that weird time between Christmas and New Year. And I know I’ve made it a little bit weirder by singing, but bear with me. Where was I? OK. As you can literally count these 5 Hopelets on one hand, we’re illustrating them each day on our social media, so pop on over to The Silent Why Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn to see what that’s all about.
So whether you have hope, have lost hope, use hope or don’t want hope, hopefully they’ll be something for everyone in these 5 Hopelets.
In this episode I’m starting with those of you who feel like your hope is small. The little finger of our hand of hope if you will.
First off - well done! Because even if your hope is small, you recognise it's there, and like a flame comes from a spark - it's possible to ignite. It might not feel adequate, or strong, or much of a safety net, but every journey starts with one step, and yours is to build on your small hope.
J R R Tolkien wrote in The Two Towers: “But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding on to something. That there is some good in this world, and it's worth fighting for.”
Hope is believing there is good in this world and it's worth fighting for. Maybe you had high hopes - but they were dashed - Christmas, the family you wanted, a job or career, a goal, dreams for your kids, relationships, friendships, a physical or mental ability, and now you’re left holding fragments of hope instead.
Mason Cooley said: “Every day begins with an act of courage and hope: getting out of bed.”
So find what you still have hope in, even if small. Where and when do you hear yourself saying, ‘I hope that…’. And are you placing your hope in the right things? Maybe it’s small steps and you’re placing your hope in your next breath? Reaching the end of the day? Lasting for just the next hour without caving in? Whatever it is, hold tight to it. Like a match in the night, hope will always shine brighter than the dark, but to stop it being extinguished you need to find a wick for it to burn on slowly.
Christopher Reeve said: “Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.”
Desmond Tutu said: “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
And you can do it. I have faith in you.
And if you’re feeling like your hope is just damaged, tune in tomorrow.
I’ll finish with some words Emily Dickinson wrote: “Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all."
26 December - Hopelet 2: When your hope is weak
Hello again, it’s Claire, and if you listened to the last Hopelet episode then you’ll know we’re putting out something on our podcast feed every day between Christmas and New Year’s eve, based around hope.
Today I’m looking at what to do when your hope is damaged, and on the visual we’re using on our social media of a hand, this one sits on the ring finger, which also happens to be the weakest finger for most people - ever tried holding a shopping bag on it - it does not work well. It’s the sort of diva of the fingers that’s more about jewellery than hard graft.
Maybe you had hope once, bags of it even, but it’s either slowly or drastically been reduced and left in tatters. So you’ve given up on placing hope in the right things and you know you’ve started to look for fulfilment and satisfaction in the wrong things. Or you’ve allowed yourself to be seduced into the world of comparison, sneakily looking at what others have achieved and are trying that on for size. Sadly, comparison will erode your hope even further.
Robert H. Schuller said: “Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.”
I get it, sometimes hope becomes a burden when the things you wanted don’t come to pass, so you put it down, and try to forget about it. Maybe you once had hopes of becoming a professional athlete but that dream didn’t happen and now your hopes are in whiskey. Maybe you had hopes of your own family, but now they're in buying and consuming inordinate amounts of chocolate.
George Weinberg said: “Hope never abandons you, you abandon it.”
I want to encourage you to find your hope, dust it down, polish it up, reassess it, renew it, revive it and re-place it where it belongs. It might not be in exactly the same thing, maybe that’s not going to happen and you need to let it go and grieve that. But there is always hope.
There’s an Italian Proverb that says ‘Hope is the last thing ever lost.’ Powerful words if you sit down and think about those .
Nelson Mandela said: “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
If we don’t choose hope to guide us forward, then our fears WILL do that instead. And that’s no way to live.
Thich Nhat Hanh , who I’ve quoted before and always have to write down his name phonetically, said: “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”
Hope isn’t weak, it makes you strong. So if it’s damaged, fix it, you need it to help you tomorrow.
Confucius said: “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
Haruki Murakami said: “And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
So find your hope, no matter how tatty, worn or beaten it’s looking after your storm, it’s still yours, and it needs you as much as you need it - find a way to mend it.
27 December - Hopelet 3: When your hopes are high
Hello again, it’s Claire, and if you listened to the last two Hopelet episodes then you’ll know I’m putting out something on our podcast feed every day between Christmas and New Year’s eve, based around hope.
If you’re following our social media imagery of this series, you’ll see out of the 5 hope lessons mapped out on fingers, we’ve reached the middle finger.
Now of course, you all know what the middle finger is famous for… that’s right… being the tallest finger.
However, I have to take a brief moment to tell you what wikipedia says about the gesture of giving someone the middle finger:
“The gesture dates back to ancient Greece, historically, it represented the phallus. In the early 1800s, it gained increasing recognition as a sign of disrespect… The index finger and ring finger besides the middle finger in more contemporary periods has been likened to represent the testes.”
There you go, you’re basically showing someone the shape of a penis with your fingers, doesn’t sound quite so threatening now does it? I also bet you weren’t expecting to hear any of those words in today’s episode.
Anyhoo, back to hope. This ‘tallest’ finger, is today representing those with hopes held high. You guys have really high hopes and you’re striving for the sky with them. To have high hopes means that you are confident something will happen. This can be seen as a good thing, but also it’s something to be cautious of.
Not that I want to burst any of your bubbles or anything, but if we put everything on the line for our high hopes in something, if it doesn’t happen, it can not only destroy us but also our future ability to hope in the right things.
Benjamin Disraeli said: “I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best.”
For example, when facing infertility you can hope you’ll have children one day, like we did. That’s only natural. But if you put all your high hopes into believing it will happen, and nothing else will be good enough, and then if it doesn’t happen and it destroys you (possibly your marriage), those high hopes weren’t exactly helpful.
So it strikes me that you need to have your hopes in the right things or the right person. To have high hopes a purple unicorn will grace your kitchen for lunch tomorrow is probably misplaced and will send you back to the second episode on hope I put out, for a number of reasons, but if you can’t work those out right now, then you probably need more help than I can offer you.
Or maybe we’ve had someone else’s high hopes placed on us and that’s a lot of pressure to take, it’s not a nice feeling, and it turns into pressure to perform, to deliver.
High hopes are great, when they are in something solid you can depend on, in something that never changes and is fully reliable. I have to admit I’m scratching my head to find anything on this planet you can do that with. If you search the internet with the question ‘what should we place our hope in?’ you are met with faith - because placing your hope in God is the only thing many people have found to be the solid foundation they were after, and we’ve found this hidden away in many of our podcast interviews. Faith got people through the hard times because it was something bigger than them and their grief - a solid base to trust in or collapse onto.
Isaiah 40 in the Bible says: “But those who hope in the Lord, will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Doesn’t that sound like something we’d all love? I know if I watch an eagle soaring that feeling looks like something I want a piece of.
So today, if you have high hopes in something or someone, I want to encourage you to look at what you’re placing them in, and what might happen if they aren’t fulfilled in the way you want. Hope in the right thing is beautiful, high hopes in the right thing is inspiring, but any hope in the wrong thing is dangerous.
Vaclav Havel said: “Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”
29 December - Hopelet 4: Letting hope be your guide
Hello again, it’s Claire, and if you listened to the last three ‘Where’s your hope at?’ podcasts then you’ll know I’m putting out something on our podcast feed every day between Christmas and New Year’s eve, based around hope.
Today we’re on the index finger on our social media illustrations, and this is the hard graft one, it’s curious, it’s keen, it’s extremely useful (apologies if your loss was this finger, you might want to skip forward 10 seconds). If you ever ask the question, ‘what happens if I push that button?’ Or ‘I wonder if I can lift that with one finger?’ or if someone comes up to you and says ‘which way is the library?’, or if you need to give someone a real good telling off, or use one of those old telephones with dials, or turn on the light, or write with a pen, or type like an old person - this is the finger that immediately volunteers for the job. It’s plucky, bold and usually lives up to its cockiness.
And so it’s a little like hope in that way too.
One of the things I love most about hope is that it’s not selfish. It sort of shares itself out. A bit like opening a box of doughnuts in an office, people are just attracted to it.
So not only does it guide you (like we mentioned in Hopelet 2 - being guided by your hope and not your hurts), but it also guides others as a sort of by-product.
One of the best examples of hope guiding you is old Christmas Scrooge himself. Beginning of the book he has no hope in anything but money, not life, not family, not friends, not goodwill, not Christmas. And he’s miserable, alone, grieving the loss of his business partner, unable to communicate with anyone around him. By the end he’s singing with the muppets - “Every girl and boy… Will bring love, hope and peace to me… And every night will end, and every day will start, With a grateful prayer and a thankful heart… Stop and look around you, the glory that you see, Is born again each day, don't let it slip away, How precious life can be.”
Scrooge didn’t just get perspective from his ghost friends, he got hope again, and the first thing he does is share it out with others around him, and they’re drawn to it, despite his previous miserly ways.
You see, hope bursts out of us, you can’t stay alone and unhappy with a heart full of hope. Even if you’re stranded on a desert island like Tom Hanks in Castaway, hope was what flung him into the ocean to find a way home. So you don’t even need other people to give it to you. Although he did have Wilson.
Hope will take you to great places, it’ll help you over mountains, it’ll guide you in the valley, it’ll strengthen you in your weariness, it will be a light in the dark to show you the way, and in the meantime it’ll be showing others what’s happening in you, and make them want some of it too.
The choice to be hopeful, doesn’t just affect you, it affects those around you.
Optimism believes things will work out. Hope knows there’s no guarantee it will work out, but it chooses it anyway. So far, all the people we’ve spoken to going through grief and loss, have chosen to move forward with hope, despite there being no promise things will work out or get better in the future.
Again, it’s a choice.
Orison Swett Marden said: “There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something better tomorrow.”
In his slightly more dreary approach, William Shakespeare said: “The miserable have no other medicine, but only hope.”
Sometimes hope is all we have. That’s not a nice place to be, it’s not fun and it’s not something any of us want, we want love, acceptance, peace, joy, great friends, close family, no expectations on us to be anything that what we are, fun, laughter, singing and sunshine - but life isn’t like that - so we have a choice, choose hope or start on a path to hopelessness.
And Clare Boothe Luce says: “There are no hopeless situations; there are only men who have grown hopeless about them.” (I think she means mankind, not just men!)
Fyodor Dostoevsky said: “To live without hope is to cease to live.”
Moral of this story? There’s always hope.
Hope is simple really, it’s free, always there, available whenever you need it, only a decision away and can make all the difference in the world.
Winston Churchill said: “All the greatest things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom; justice; honour; duty; mercy; hope.”
30 December - Hopelet 5: Cherish your hope
Hello again, it’s Claire, and if you listened to the last four ‘Where’s your hope at?’ podcasts then you’ll know I’ve been putting out something on our podcast feed every day between Christmas and New Year’s eve, based around hope.
And today is the last one, before tomorrow’s episode, which is the usual Friday My Why, although this week, it’s based on… you guessed it - hope! And all the great things we’ve learnt from the Hermans we’ve gathered from every Silent Why episode. So check that out tomorrow.
Anyway, back to today’s Hopelet and on our social media illustrations of the hand, we’ve reached the thumb. What better example of showing the wonderful side of hope and cherishing it. This finger is probably best known for comfort and reassurance. If you’re not sucking it as a child, you’re using it as a gesture to say things are great as an adult. The thumbs up is the opposite of the middle finger for gestures and I love it. I use the emoji constantly and to me it’s a great way to silently say - that’s great, or don’t worry, you’ve got this.
But if you’re still wondering about why you should bother investing any of your time, or heart, in hope, I’ll put it this way - what have you got to lose? And what have you got to gain?
You get a very short amount of time on this planet. One life. You get to live it however you choose, yes there are circumstances beyond your control that will dictate a lot of it, but what goes on internally and how you respond to that, is entirely up to you. You can be depressed, fed up, hopeless, angry, and alone (cos that tends to follow when you choose that path), or you can choose to hope that there is good in the world and it will get better. And what’s even more amazing - it doesn’t cost you a thing. It doesn’t matter what your bank balance is, what your IQ is, how much hair you have on your head, how many limbs you have, whether you have a family or not, whether you are free or not, whether you are heart-broken, whether you have a job, whether you’ll be a grand-parent, whether you have a best friend, whether you have a car, whether you’ve found your soul-mate, whether you have faith, whether you are healthy, whether you are accepted by others - it only depends on you, and whether you want to. Because if you want to have hope you can find it anywhere, in others, in you, in films, in books, in stories, in nature, in faith, in science, in love, in war, in art, in music - it’s all around us. I’d even go as far as to say that Wet Wet Wet could really have done with replacing ‘love’ in their song to ‘hope’ - because Hope is All Around Us, it’s everywhere you go (don’t worry, I’m not going to sing again!).
Harvey Milk says: “Hope will never be silent.”
Did you know that there is increasing research to show that hope can be learnt and taught and used to fight depression?
Jennifer Cheavens at Ohio State University is quoted as saying: "We're finding that hope is consistently associated with fewer symptoms of depression. And the good news is that hope is something that can be taught, and can be developed in many of the people who need it."
They’ve even produced something called Hope Therapy.
Why have I done these 5 episodes on hope? Because I want you, yes little old you, sat there contemplating life right now, to have it. I can’t make you pick it up but I can show you it’s available. And I know that wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, there is hope for the situation you’re facing right now. Not in a blind optimistic type way that everything will work out, it might not, it might get worse, but embracing that doesn’t diminish your hope, that’s just realistic, in my book. Hope is choosing to believe that whatever comes your way, there are things in life worth living for, worth fighting for, worth believing in - because those are the things, when you find them, that will outlast all the awful stuff, all the pain, all the tears, all the sadness.
I was listening to The Greatest Showman soundtrack in the car this week, a film I love. I love its overriding sense of hope, overcoming, faith and belief in people. I’m a sucker for an underdog. And I was reminded of two of the most moving YouTube videos I have ever seen. They were recordings of the read-throughs of The Greatest Showman, to get the green light for the movie to go ahead. The first one is Hugh Jackman, who was told not to sing because he had some skin cancer cut out of his nose, and stitches. So his plan was to stand when he was supposed to sing, and gesticulate, but not really tell the others coming that he wasn’t supposed to sing in case they wouldn’t come too. Which went well, until he got to his song ‘From Now On.’
The second video is of one of the performers, Keala Settle, at a presentation of a new song for the film - This Is Me. They knew it would be one of the athens but no one had heard her sing it in full yet, and she was so scared she’d stayed behind her music stand up until this run-through, and what happens at this rehearsal - well, it’s beautiful.
I’ll put both these videos in the show notes (and below) - and I’d really encourage you to go and watch them.
I’m not going to describe what happens in either of these videos because it takes away the moment, but there’s a reason why over 100 million people have watched them. They always bring me tears and I think it’s a mixture of joy, probably some jealousy, inspiration, but most of all hope, buckets of hope, that there are people this talented in the world to sing and perform so beautifully, that there are hearts this big, that there are moments like that this, that even if we don’t get to be part of them, can inspire us to find our moment. They give me hope for the world, hope for my life, and I can just feel them filling my heart with joy. This is 100% what Heaven will look like for me.
I love the songs from the film, all of them, and they are anthems of hope to me. So I want to leave you with some of the lyrics from the songs, ‘From Now On’, written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Or as my nephew called this song, when asked which was his favourite one: ‘I drink champagne with kings and queens’. My prayer for you is that hope becomes your anthem and that you make a promise within yourself to never let it die out.
“I saw the sun begin to dim,
And felt that winter wind blow cold,
A man learns who is there for him,
When the glitter fades and the walls won't hold,
'Cause from that rubble,
Can only be what's true,
If all was lost,
There's more I gained,
'Cause it led me back,
From now on,
These eyes will not be blinded by the lights,
From now on,
What's waited 'til tomorrow starts tonight,
Let this promise in me start,
Like an anthem in my heart.
From now on.”