What is a story of hope? It probably a term you’ve heard used before bot when you think about it, and I mean really think about it, do you know what it means? There’s probably a few words that come to mind when you think about stories of hope. Words like adversity, resilience, survival, and of course, hope. To understand what a story of hope is we must first define these terms that are often just thrown around when describing a story of hope.
First let’s look at resilience. The dictionary definition is “the capacity to withstand or to recover quickly from difficulties”, which is a good starting off point but without context of a story it’s hard to fully understand the concept. To help let’s look at “How Resilience Works” by Diane Coutu. We are also told of three characteristics that are seen in all resilient individuals: a overall acceptance of reality, a deep belief that life is meaningful, and a strong ability to improvise. Each of these characteristics start as mental but translate into physical consequences, the acceptance of reality allows an individual to process what is happening and take the necessary steps to survive, a belief that life is meaningful helps the person push through mental barriers to keep on living, and the ability to improvise allows them to use anything they can to make sure they survive. All of this tells us that resilience really is your mind’s ability to push you to continue to live even as hardships try to pull you down.
Next let’s take a look at adversity. Already you may be seeing the connections between resilience and adversity since it seems like a good assumption that you need adversity to use resilience but what exactly is adversity anyways? Let’s use “The New Survivors” by Pamela Weintraub to help answer that. Throughout the article we learn about cancer survivors and how their experiences with the disease often lead them to grow from the experience and find parts about themselves that they didn’t know existed. One quote that help encompass this idea is from Willam Breitbart, chief of psychiatry service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre. He said “It is in our nature to transcend our limitations, but too often we get distracted by everyday life. If life is always smooth, we’re never challenged, suffering is probably necessary to make us grow. The need to know meaning is a primary force, but we may need to be confronted with our own mortality for that to occur.” Where resilience is the thing that helps people overcome adversity, adversity itself is something that pushes you to your limits and forces you to transcend them.
Finally let’s look at survival. It’s a word I’ve been using through this post but what exactly does it mean? Looking at “Can a Devastating Shark Attack Really Lead to a Better Life” by Melanie Greenberg, we can find the answer. Throughout the article we learn about Bethany Hamilton, a teen surfer who lost her arm to a shark attack when she was 13 and has become a professional surfer despite that adversity. We once again learn how this event pushed her to grow and experience positive change due to a phenomenon called Post Traumatic Growth where these adverse events cause people to grow. Reading this article you can see how the usual definitions of survival don’t seem to fit, she’s not just surviving but growing and living. In the context of stories of hope, survival mean growing to live a better after adversity.
Now, with all of these terms defined we can finally look at stories of hope itself. All of these examples were stories of hope, stories where people facing unimaginable adversity, had the resilience to push through that adversity to survive to live another day. That is a story of hope.