Last year I read an inspiring book by Jerome Groopman entitled The Anatomy of Hope. He says:
Hope , unlike optimism, is rooted in unalloyed reality . . . Hope is the
elevating feeling we experience when we see - in the mind’s eye -
a path to a better future.
He goes on to talk about the importance of faith and hope in the recovery from disease, and outlines the difference between hope, false hope, and faith. It’s a wonderful book.
I’ve had reason to think about hope again this summer. First, Sarah’s boyfriend talked to a elderly Palestinian this summer while he was living in Israel. The man said he had no hope for himself, his children, or his grandchildren. His comments have not been far from my mind since I read them. You can read Adam's whole entry here.
Then our book group read Thomas Friedman’s book The World is Flat. Friedman quotes a Chinese government official who said, “When people have hope, you have a middle class.” (p. 375) Friedman goes on to say that the world will never truly be flat for people who have no hope. “The bad news is . . there are hundred of millions of people who have no hope and therefore no chance of making it into the middle class. They have no hope for two reasons: Either they are too sick, or their local governments are too broken for them to believe they have a pathway forward.” (p. 376)
Finally, I just finished reading Tracy Kidder’s inspiring Mountains Beyond Mountains that tells the story of Paul Farmer and how he has single-handedly made a huge difference for many third world people too sick to have hope. It occurred to me that although their health was certainly the greatest cure, having hope restored is close behind.
I am a constant worrier. When Matt was having lots of difficulties in high school, his counselor cautioned me not to “catastrophize” every little event. I was (and am) capable of envisioning the worst possible outcomes for every incident. I learned to work hard not to allow myself these negative thoughts. But throughout it all, I never lost hope that things could get better. If I try to personalize a loss of hope, I cannot. It’s hard not to come to the conclusion that the functioning governments of the world are not putting their resources where they can truly make a difference. Paul Farmer’s efforts have been fruitful; the war in Iraq has certainly not instilled hope in the Iraqis. Where is the money better spent?