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How to find hope in trying times

Regarding the Journey

I have been consumed with hope lately. It’s not that I have oodles of hope spilling out of me, it’s that hope itself is a mystery to me. I know people with a seemingly unquenchable surplus of hope. Where did they get it? Can they simply manufacture it on demand? Is it for sale? How do I get my hands on a few sprinkles of hope to cast over the heads of those who’s vessel of hope seems empty?

Have you ever tried to define or classify hope? Some people have it and can’t explain it. Others search for long stretches of time to locate it. Hope is one of the most powerful things in the world. I’ve seen it in action. But what is it? If we know what it is, we must then be able to possess it.

Even the magazine Psychology Today has a difficult time defining or identifying what hope represents.

“While hope itself is not an emotion, with hope you can make yourself feel positive emotions,” the magazine states. “And when you dwell in positive emotions in the present moment, it creates a positive future. Hope is the only thing that saves you.”

Using the word ‘thing’ is inaccurate and avoids specific meaning. We can’t learn or grow with such vague terms, and we should always strive to learn and grow. Without exercising those two important components of being human, we are merely existing, taking in nutrients and expelling waste. Humans are called to do greater acts. Even at times of despair we inspire, love, and teach.

So I choose to grow hope, to continually reach for hope, and to instill hope in others. In order to do that, I must understand hope. For as Helen Keller said, “Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.”

Last week Friends Together, the nonprofit cancer support organization that I’m proud to be a part of, made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend our support groups, in response to the COVID-19 virus, until further notice. This was not ordered of us. It was not an edict from on high. No one told us to do this. We had no way of knowing another shutdown was imminent. We were simply making a decision we felt was most responsible in keeping with our mission: We Help People with Cancer.

For many of us though, it felt like ripping the rug out from under a group of people who, more than anything, need human presence, compassion and some genuine laughs. And while there are lots of technological ways we can mimic a group gathering, nothing takes the place of in-person conversation.

Something magical happens in our support groups. They are full of warm and inclusive individuals who each have their own despair, fear, and worry, yet focus on the needs of one another. It is a truly beautiful, organic process. Each person walks into that room with a flood of their own emotions, issues, thoughts and feelings. But the minute we are together, in a supportive group, the landscape changes.

So I am determined, now more than ever, to be a beacon of hope for others. Not the false kind that is filled with empty promises, but the other kind that lifts another’s spirits, and supports them so they can live for today. I know this begins with just one step. One step forward. And then another. This is my focus today and in the weeks ahead. Join me.

Start to build hope within yourself. No matter your circumstances. Let’s stop focusing on the restraints around us. Work within yourself. Point out what is good and go from there.

Lesslee Dort is a board-certified patient advocate who firmly believes knowledge is power when it comes to being in control of one’s health. She spends her days helping others navigate their healthcare and her free time exploring. Reach Lesslee via email at lesslee@friendstogethermi.org. Read her here the third Thursday of each month.

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