The Radical Power of Hope
Over the last few months, I have met with a variety of different groups of people: friends, students, arts professionals, academics and educationalists and I have found myself arguing against the prevailing mood. As people of faith, we have to recognise that we are uniquely positioned by having hope. When society is faced with many challenges, I’ve been surprised at the sense of hopelessness that has overwhelmed so many deeply talented and skilled people. And it is this sense of hopelessness that is completely disempowering – which robs us of the practical and creative solutions to solving the problems that each one of us has the potential to contribute.
Without hope, it is easy for the barriers and limitations to seem overwhelming. To forget the value of every small step of progress or individual gesture of care that can collectively result in significant societal change.
At a reunion of people I knew as teenager, I was surprised at the level of resignation: ‘We’ll be dead before it affects us.’ ‘There’s no point – nothing ever changes.’ We are now in our forties and some of us have had some tough experiences, including homelessness, destitution, family breakdown and addiction. But rather than those things being the things that restrict us, these are the things that give us the life experience and empathy to bring about real change. Without hope, however, we become purely self –focussed. We think ‘What’s the point?’ We batten down the hatches and focus on making our own patch as secure as possible, but often no less miserable.
As part of the FaithAction team, I have the privilege of seeing the impact of people who make a difference – of projects running in churches, gudwaras, mosques and synagogues that improve the quality of individuals’ lives in significant ways. As people of faith, regardless of what faith, we have a hope and an expectation that things can change on a personal and corporate level.
We sometimes forget how radical that is…
Without hope, nothing happens. Without hope we don’t have the perseverance to face the knock-backs that are the inevitable consequence of making any good idea a reality. Without hope, we feel condemned by our mistakes, which stifles the very creativity and originality which helps us problem solve in the first place. Without hope, we paralyse ourselves through over-analysis of imagined consequences and never have the courage to test them out.
We need the optimism to risk caring; the hope which enables us to recognise that change isn’t something that takes place in the large gestures but in tiny acts of care; the courage to let the crazy optimistic view take hold and to believe we can make a difference.
If all of us had hope, with our diversity of talents, skills and imagination, we would be a powerful force, generating social change in the most perceptive and imaginative ways. We have to learn from one another; listen to one another; embrace the inevitable challenges of working together across literal and metaphorical languages, but with hope we can pursue better systems, better relationships and find ways to generate long lasting-change.
So, by encouraging one another, small choice by small choice, let’s see our communities change. What do you hope for?