What is a story of hope? This is the question we were tasked with answering in this post. It comes from the week we have just spent tackling four sets of stories. These stories talked about surviving shark attacks, cancer, and even flesh eating amoebas. But every single story involved hope and it’s companions: resilience, survival, and adversity.
The one element of a story of hope that I am unsure about is survival. I do not think you need to be in a survival situation in order to have hope, nor do you need hope to survive. For instance in our story about Jason Zimmerman (a cancer survivor) he describes feeling hopeless throughout all his treatments, and cancer reoccurrences, and simply surviving without hope. However hope allowed him to recover after surviving, and enjoy living. Although I think hope and survival are very mutually interconnected (having hope will very much positively benefit your survival), I do not think they are necessary to each other the way resilience and adversity are to hope.
For example, a story of hope that has had quite a large impact on me (and had nothing to do with survival) is the story of Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgensen climbing the Dawn wall. It was the last great unclimbed multi-pitch face on El Capitan, and it took them six years to climb. It required huge time investments, literal blood, sweat, and tears, and an enormous amount of resilience not to give up
in the face of constant failure. It required a huge amount of hope and belief in the possibility that this climb could be done (even though EVERYONE said it couldn’t be). When they did finally climb the face, it was a strong reminder for me that believing that something is possible, is the first step to doing it, or making a change. (Check out the trailer for the Dawn Wall documentary HERE, it is unbelievably cool climbing, and a great documentary about perseverance in general)
The other major common thread, that I found throughout all of these stories of hope, was that they were all realistic. None of them painted their survival or recovery as miracles. Bethany Hamilton knew that it was possible for her to be able to surf again, even if it would be very difficult, and would require a lot of resilience. She took that realistic possibility, and worked towards it, always having hope that it would happen again. None of the people in the stories we read prayed for miracles. They saw what was possible and hoped that it would happen, maintaining a positive outlook that allowed them to keep fighting through whatever adversity they were faced with.
Another example of this that comes to mind for me, is the memoir “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls. She was a person who lived a very complicated life, with an extremely complicated family. She grew up, very poor, constantly moving, and with an alcoholic father (I’ll be honest these were just a few of her problems). But despite the hardships and adversity she faced, she was a planner and a realistic optimist. When she wanted to move to New York for school, but had no money at all, she still remained open to the possibility of it happening (staying hopeful). She took on multiple jobs, looked for scholarships, and developed a plan to hide this from her parents (they were extremely unsupportive). When her alcoholic father stole her entire savings, she instead pivoted her plan, and took the first opportunity of a bus ride and babysitting job in New York, and pushed through the adversity. She used a very realistic optimism (dare I say hope) to keep herself motivated throughout her hardships, and this allows her to stay resilient.It’s a story that never fails to remind me how powerful of a tool mindset can be, and how important staying open minded about different opportunities is.
So far I’ve determined that a story of hope is a realistic but positive story that uses hope and belief in possibilities, to stay resilient and surpass adversity. I don’t believe stories of hope need to involve extraordinary circumstances (like survival), they can be about things we all probably do, like recover from trauma, or strive to achieve goals. Stories of hope are also realistic, grounded in possibility and planning, and not miracles. And all stories of hope help teach us about ourselves and our minds. They show us what is possible when we believe in that possibility, and fight for it. These stories show us that hope is a tool to use for pushing onward and maintaining a positive attitude and open mind, that allows us to stay resilient and beat adversity.