The Book of Hope

How do you explain “hope”?

In The Book of Hope by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams with Gail Hudson, Dr. Goodall describes hope as “what enables us to keep going in the face of adversity. It is what we desire to happen, but we must be prepared to work hard to make it so.”

This book was written during the pandemic, a time when it sometimes felt like all we could do was hope; hope to stay healthy, hope to stay safe, hope for a vaccine. 

This is a powerful book with a powerful message, and this week I’m sharing some of my favorite passages.

“You won’t be active unless you hope that your action is going to do some good. So you need hope to get you going, but then by taking action, you generate more hope. It’s a circular thing.”

From Douglas Abrams, “I was surprised to learn that hope is quite different from wishing or fantasizing. Hope leads to future success in a way that wishful thinking does not. While both involve thinking about the future with rich imagery, only hope sparks us to take action directed toward the hoped-for goal.”

“The trouble is that not enough people are taking action,” Douglas Abrams said. “You say more people are aware of the problems we face — so why aren’t more trying to do something about it?”

“It’s mostly because people are so overwhelmed by the magnitude of our folly that they feel helpless,” Jane Goodall replied. “They sink into apathy and despair, lose hope, and so do nothing. We must find ways to help people understand that each one of us has a role to play, no matter how small. Every day we make some impact on the planet. And the cumulative effect of millions of small ethical actions will truly make a difference. That’s the message I take around the world.”

“Jane’s stories affirmed that when we feel we can make a difference, and we’re given the means to do so, positive outcomes can happen that in turn allow hope to prevail. It was a powerful example of what the research had found contributes to hope: clear and inspiring goals, realistic ways to realize those goals, a belief that one can achieve those goals, and the social support to continue in the face of adversity.”

“From talking with Jane and doing my own research, I was starting to see that hope is an innate survival trait that seems to exist in every child’s head and heart; but even so, it needs to be encouraged and cultivated. If it is, hope can take root, even in the grimmest of situations…” from Mr. Abrams.

“Well, I always knew I had a gift for writing,” Jane added. “From an early age I was writing — stories, essays, poems. But I never thought I had a gift for speaking. It wasn’t until I was forced to make that first speech, and found that people were listening, and heard their applause at the end, that I realized I must have done okay. I think many people have gifts that they don’t know about because nothing forces them to use them.”

“That when the trials of life come, you’ll be given the strength to cope with them, day by day. So often I’ve thought at the start of a dreaded day — having to defend my Ph.D. thesis, giving a talk to an intimidating audience, or even just going to the dentist! — ‘Well, of course, I shall get through this because I have to. I will find the strength. And, anyway, by this time tomorrow it will be over’.”

Readers – I wrote this blog post before the horrific school shooting in Texas. I wrote this blog and now am re-reading it with a broken heart. Hope — it’s more than just wanting things to change. I hope my son will grow up reading about gun violence in history books, as something that used to happen, not reading about it in the newspaper because gun violence remains a current event. Hope involves action. For me, now, that takes the form of voting. Continuing to Vote in Every Single Election. And I hope my readers feel the same way.

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