A Scope on Hope

The Oxford English dictionary defines hope as, “a belief that something you want will happen”. Cambridge says, “to want something to happen or to be true, and usually have a good reason to think that it might.” Merriam-Webster’s definition is “to cherish a desire with anticipation”. From a literal standpoint, hope is defined as a feeling, a desire, and a reasonable thing to have. For people who have been faced with adversity in their lives, hope has a whole new meaning.

When Bethany Hamilton was 13, she lost her left arm to a 14-foot tiger shark, which seemed like the end her dream career of being a professional surfer. Instead if succumbing to her live-altering injury, Bethany turned her situation around through post-traumatic growth; the ability to derive positive benefits from adversity. She was back in the water one month after the attack and won her first national surfing title two years later.

Bethany is an incredible example of how having strong social supports and relationships with others following any sort of traumatic event are key predictors of psychological recovery. Bethany’s family, friends, and community serve as incredible supports to her during her time of struggle, and Bethany made a fully recovery, both psychologically and physically.

Bethany’s definition of hope would not be the same as Oxford, Cambridge, or Merriam-Webster. Bethany’s definition of hope would be closer to how many survivors of some sort of adversity would define hope as; an open sense of possibility, acceptance of risk, and a willingness to work things out. (

People who have been faced with having to overcome something almost always come out of it with a new perspective on life. Having to show extreme resilience when faced with adversity and being able to survive it and come out maintaining hope is one of the greatest skills that a person can have.

In her TEDxLaJolla speech in 2014, Dr. Edith Eger talked about her experience as a holocaust survivor and said, “the worst conditions can bring out the best in us.” This statement has remained true throughout all of the stories of hope that we have looked at throughout this project. Dr. Eger came out of her experience with hope and spreading her story gives other people hope as well. Out of the four words that we have been focusing on so far, hope and resilience are the only two attributes that can be shared, transferred, or given. It has been a common theme that people who survived something, or were faced with some sort of adversity, came out of it with a new perspective on life and what it means to be a survivor.

“We don’t know where we are going, we don’t know what is going to happen, but just remember. Nobody can take away from you what you put here. In your own mind.”

A story of hope is an account of someone’s personal experience of overcoming a difficult time. The “difficult time” could be a shark attack. It could be childhood cancer. It could also be a completely unique and personal experience.

Hope is something that keeps us going. It keeps our brains positive, it keeps us thinking about the future, and having hope makes us better people. Stories of hope are pervasive. Stories of hope are inspiration. Stories of hope remind us of our privilege, and force us to question what we would do if faced with adversity.

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

–  Martin Luther King Jr.

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