Every morning I walk my dog around the block, usually around the time when the bus rolls through the neighborhood to pick up kids for school. Much to my dog’s delight, the bus driver recently started tossing a treat out the window whenever he passes us. This has elevated the morning walk to a new level of excitement, and my dog turns her head with joyful anticipation whenever any louder-sounding vehicle rumbles up behind us. Never mind the fact that some days our timing might be off, or it might be a weekend or scheduled day off of school. My optimistic dog is ready to take her chances again the next morning, no matter what happened the previous walk. This led me to think about the importance of hope, and what it would mean to truly live life with a new hope every day.
We use the word “hope” daily to connect with others, and it not only shares goodwill, but it also can renew a sense of positive expectations. You likely express hope to someone else multiple times a day: “I hope your test goes well”, “I hope you feel better soon”, “I hope your trip is relaxing”. At our most basic level, vocalizing sincere hope for someone else is one of the least expensive and most meaningful gifts we can give.
We can look for these opportunities to convey hope to others in life’s small moments. The other day, I was in line behind an elderly woman in a motorized cart at the grocery store. She had a few more than ten items in the express lane, and I started to grow a little impatient as I waited with my gallon of milk. When it came time to pay, she realized she had left her wallet at home. Her husband was in the store, but it took time to find him, and she looked at me with a combination of panic and embarrassment as he slowly shuffled over. I quickly realized this was an opportunity to exercise patience and also share a small but meaningful message of hope. After her items were bagged, she seemed exhausted as she told me she was sorry for all the delays. I made sure to smile and assure her (and myself) I was in no hurry, and said I hoped the rest of her day was a good one.
We nurture hope for ourselves when we make efforts to let go of the past. It may be the error we made at work yesterday or the hurtful remarks that caused strained relationships between siblings years ago. We cannot magically erase previous mistakes and difficult experiences, but we can acknowledge their impact and realize that we grow stronger by finding our way through them. The past is a part of us, but it does not define us. We learn valuable lessons about ourselves and how we respond to tough times, and learning what we want to do differently helps us move forward with a renewed sense of hope.
Hope is not a strategy — it is a starting point. Hope pairs best with action. My treat-seeking dog knows she gets exactly zero biscuits sitting inside watching from the window. We begin by visualizing something we want in our personal or professional lives, and a seed of hope is planted. The crucial next step is taking action, whether it be walking around the block hoping to find the school bus, or studying hard hoping to do well on a test. The belief that good things are possible, plus the movement to make dreams a reality, equals a new hope every day.
As I mentioned in the beginning, some days my dog and I walk, but do not see the bus. Thankfully, every day there is a pretty amazing consolation prize — squirrels to chase, snow piles to run through, bright sunshine to soak up, neighbors to greet, a multitude of scents to investigate. Remember, a new hope every day may not lead to exactly what you wish for, but something else wonderful may appear instead. The only way to find out is to open that door and start walking.
Laura B. joined Empathia in 2000 as an EAP Counselor. Laura has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, with a concentration in marriage and family therapy. Prior to joining Empathia, she worked as a case manager with chronically mentally ill adults readjusting to life in the community. Laura enjoys reading, attending kids’ activities and spending time with family.