With a Little Hope From My Friends

Hope is no longer blooming. I can enter my neighborhood in any number of ways, but in the last few months I have had a favorite point of entry. The generous summers of West Texas take a toll on the north Abilene neighborhood where I live; inadequate rain and costly watering shorten the lifespan of even the most drought-resistant flowers – assuming you were even hopeful enough to still hear and succumb when the first warm days of spring made their siren-like call to garden. The grass eventually suffers the same fate, turning varying shades of brown and becoming progressively crunchier under the sun’s steadfast gaze. Only the weeds seem ambivalent to the harsh conditions, appreciative even, responding in gratitude with exuberant growth.

So, it is no surprise the brilliant, yellow-flowering bush would catch my eye in September and become a restorative balm throughout my comings and goings in the neighborhood. At first glance, I suspected my neighbor of having given up on coaxing life out of her front beds and resorting to an ever-blooming artificial substitute. The plant was that vibrant. I eventually discovered these blooms of hope were just that, the native Texas flowering bush Esperanza, which for you monolingual friends like myself, is the Spanish word for – you guessed it – “hope.”

But hope has disappointed me just when I needed it most. The heat of summer has overstayed its welcome, masking any hint of the crispness of autumn. My freshly potted mums are wilting in protest. And now even the resilient yellow hope of Texas is throwing in the towel. The blooms of the Esperanza, my personal portal of hope into the neighborhood, are fading.

People seem to be fading as well. Maybe it is the heat and the reticence of fall to stand up and show itself. Maybe it is the lackluster flowers. Maybe it is the result of a tiring and unsatisfying election season, which has stirred up fear and unearthed resentment and peddled unkindness. Maybe we have forgotten that we aren’t really fearful and resentful and unkind people.

I am worried about losing hope. And about you losing hope as well. So I asked some people who give me hope to share something that makes them hopeful in the midst of what can easily be seen as a hopeless time.

Here is what they said:

My elderly neighbor, Betty, who has survived a couple of recent surgeries – not without a hard-fought battle – is thankful to be alive and is hopeful about what is in store for her extended life. She is amazed by the number of busy people who take time from their loaded schedules to deliver her lunch as part of the Meals on Wheels program. She thinks it is a big deal that someone would give their time like that.

A local 3rd-grade teacher said, “Every time I see a new understanding recognized in the eyes of a student who has previously struggled, my hope is renewed.”

A friend who has a teen-aged son on the autism spectrum had this to say about what brings her hope: “The way our son has been treated this year at Abilene High School. Teenagers get a bad rap sometimes and we hear a lot of negative things on the news, but I see a lot of good at AHS. The teachers and staff have welcomed him. . . . The students have accepted him as one of their peers and friends. They are patient and kind. This gives me hope for my son’s future and I see God’s love and mercy and grace at work.”

A local coffee shop owner, Allison, talked about a new, young employee who is a hard worker, has made level-headed decisions and willingly accepts personal responsibility for his actions and shortcomings. Especially with all the “bad things you hear about the younger generation,” Nick makes her hopeful. She is also made hopeful by her recent personal campaign, advocating for “true equality for all,” especially with regard to women. She has been targeting her circles of influence and has been pleased that one group of predominantly older men has listened to her, responded by catching themselves when they have been guilty of inequality in their language and thoughts and ideas, and have even begun correcting their behavior. This progress makes her hopeful and reminds her that people do have the capacity to change.

Jalen, a high school student from my neighborhood who embodies young leadership, said, “I find hope in knowing my ability to learn, but more specifically, that I can learn from my mistakes. It is helpful to know that most projects will take you more than one try to master. Sometimes hope is just the result of struggling, and without something to push you back and give that struggle, then there is no hope.”

A young African-American woman who is mother of a beautiful 8-year-old girl said she finds hopefulness in knowing that, regardless of your political leanings, we could possibly elect a woman president. This gives her immense hope – even more, she said, than electing the first black president did. But she is made most hopeful by the “blind optimism” of her daughter, who regularly sees the good in every person and any situation, and often reminds her of this.

Jasmine, a senior psychology major at a local university, said she feels most hopeful when she takes a minute to look at nature and remember she is part of a “grand scheme.”

Rachel, who works for an organization that is researching and working to prevent drug and alcohol abuse, said, “My faith, first; no matter the circumstances, Jesus has always seen me through it – whether life is good or bad. Second would be my belief in humanity. In my travels around the world, I have seen and felt genuine kindness and love.”

My friend Chris, who has seen too much in this world and has experienced great loss and pain said, “Hope comes from within, not without. While I look to the world to make me hopeful, true hope has always come from inside of me. When I look for hope to come from without, it rarely shows up on time. I continue to be hopeless, and unable to overcome the obstacles put in front of me. When I find hope within, it is always on time and I find that is more than enough. I don’t believe in the tenacity of the human heart. I rely on it.”

If you are fading, take a minute to reflect on these words, and let “esperanza” bloom again in your life.

Then share your hopeful thoughts with us.