“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.” ~Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams
“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”
I recently came across the life and work of artist Jonathan Belle, aka the ‘Visual Storyteller Seattle Superman’, and his words on hope, faith, and action struck me as especially meaningful, especially now.
He writes: “It isn’t enough to just ‘wish’ for something to happen. Hope is important because hope involves the will to get there, and different paths for you to take. Life can be difficult and that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Yet, hope allows you to keep going down different roads, to see things differently, and to try and make things for your perfect ideal. This holds true, even when there seems like there isn’t a solution. In fact, the word ‘hope’ is in the definition of the word ‘faith’. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Furthermore, Faith without works is dead. Meaning, if you simply wish for something to happen, but do nothing to work toward it, then it is of no use. In order for us to fulfill our ideal of hope, we have to take action with our hope.”
In the spirit of Belle’s words, I have gathered together a small but fierce sampling of books on how hope, when paired with consistent practical action, can mature into wisdom. And, please do scroll all the way down to one of my very favorite poems ‘The Thing Is’ by Ellen Bass.
How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope is a luminous collection of poems edited by James Crews - uplifting without being glib, reflective without lapsing into self-absorption, and relatable without sinking into cliché. Included are works by such beloved poets as inaugural poet Amanda Gorman, Joy Harjo, Naomi Shihab Nye, Ross Gay, Mark Nepo, Jane Hirschfield, and more.
In Almost Everything: Notes on Hope Anne Lamott reminds us that “all truth is paradox” and this turns out to be a solid reason for hope. If you arrive at a place in life that is miserable, you can know for sure that it will change. I love Anne Lamott for her heart, her wit, and her humor and this one is a gem to treasure and to share.
Lucky for us, the wise folk over at Riverhead Books have released a boxed set of six of Lamott’s works called The Comfort and Joy Collection which includes; Help, Thanks, Wow, her latest book Dusk, Night, Dawn, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair, Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy, and the book I speak about above Almost Everything.
More Than Love, a Husband's Tale came out of a journal of thoughts and feelings from Peter B. Forster’s responses to the shock of learning that his wife was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December, 2015. He writes, “Initially, I kept it as a personal diary of things that I believed were important at the time, including the poems and prose I wrote which sprang organically from the events as they unfolded. Whilst these few short months were extremely challenging, at times shocking and ultimately tragic, they were also a time of great love.” Perhaps your life is being impacted by profound loss or a big and scary transition. It is my hope that books like this will serve to remind you that you are not alone, others have travelled down similar paths, and there is joy to be found even in the darkest of places. Let’s go easy on ourselves and each other when we feel the shadows coming on, shall we?
A collection of essays selected and edited by Paul Rogat Loeb called The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in Troubled Times encourages us to trust in the power of ordinary citizens to change the world - for the better. This revised edition includes such visionary voices as Maya Angelou, Diane Ackerman, Marian Wright Edelman, Tony Kushner, Audre Lorde, Mary Pipher, Alice Walker, Paul Hawken, and more. Savor this one, friends.
How to Live: Boxed Set of the Mindfulness Essentials Series by Thich Nhat Hanh includes five of his all-time favorites; How to Sit, How to Eat, How to Walk, How to Love, and How to Relax - together here for the first time in a beautifully designed slipcase. Written with clarity, simplicity, and deep presence this is a set to treasure.
Busy: How to Thrive in a World of Too Much by business psychologist Tony Crabbe holds that at this point in human history, we are the first generation of people to always be in a ‘switched on’ mode and that this takes a toll on our brains as well as our psyches and spirits. His work demonstrates the science behind the unequivocal need to prioritize downtime in order to recover and function optimally and live with hopeful sustainably. Without enough mental breaks, we compromise our ability to make constructive meaning out of our experience and wind up setting ourselves up for inevitable breakdowns. Let’s take this awareness seriously, folks…now more than ever.
Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration edited by Rose Brock is a passionate offering of works by some of our favorite young adult authors, including Atia Abawi, Christina Diaz Gonzales, Ales London, Jason Reynolds, Nic Stone, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Nicola Yoon, and others. Within these pages we are strongly reminded that words are power - never more so than in challenging times. Let’s choose to use them wisely.
These Precious Days is a collection of personal essays by Ann Patchett - all of which bring great warmth, wit, and grace to exploring how we humans live and love, connect and part, create and transform. I love this book.
Hope Rising: How the Science of Hope Can Change Your Life by Casey Gwinn and Chan Hellman asserts that hope is the most predictive indicator of well-being in a person’s life from research done on trauma, illness, resiliency, and recovery. Transparency and honesty are at the heart of the human journey through adversity and struggle and this book offers a map of sorts to help navigate that process.
Yoga teacher, activist, and author Seane Corn opens up her heart, mind, and soul in her glorious book Revolution of the Soul: Awaken to Love Through Raw Truth, Radical Healing, and Conscious Action as she guides us toward a path of joy and well-being, regardless of what our runaway minds may be telling us. With humor, humility, and wise irreverence we are invited along for a soul-stirring ride into the heart of human beingness.
The Power of Women: A Doctor's Journey of Hope and Healing by Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Denis Mukwege brings us a powerful work in support of building more inclusive, gender-balanced societies which will require developing what he calls "positive masculinity" - a systemic change in male behavior and attitudes towards women. Dr. Mukwege hopes to inspire other men to speak out and join the cause, rather than leaving women to fight the battle alone. He also makes the case, drawing from his experience and a wealth of research on the topic, that when women are involved as economic and political decision makers, all of society benefits. Amen to that, brothers and sisters!
For the young reader, may I suggest the classic book The Mouse and his Child by Russell Hoban. It's an old book but it has a timeless story to tell. If something can go wrong, it does, but these characters face it and persevere - together. With illustrations by Caldecott Medalist David Small we are gifted with a journey from loss and brokenness to joy and connection. If this is a new title to you, I encourage you to give it a go and if this is already in your library, why not take it off the shelf for a reread?
Isabella Tree, author of the gloriously hopeful book Wilding: Returning Nature to Our Farm, brings us something for the kiddos with When We Went Wild with illustrations by Allira Tee in which we learn about the benefits of farming and raising animals sustainably, respecting and nurturing the land, and everything and everyone living on it. This is destined to be a classic and will hopefully inspire some creative nature activities for your family.
And lastly, there’s Light for All by Margarita Engle with illustrations by Raúl Colón which shines a light on the immigrant experience in America, emphasizing the hopes and dreams, contributions and challenges of a variety of people determined to start new lives for themselves and their families.
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