Four Ways to Plant Hope

By Kate Kerry Spencer

When I was a kid, my mother told me that there are no hopeless people, there are only people without hope. At the time, I thought there was no difference between the two states and that she was mistaken. I was nine and thought I knew a lot of stuff, a lot of new stuff that my mother didn’t know. 

Not surprisingly, as I got older and slightly wiser myself, my mother’s wisdom seemed to grow too. In reality, it was just me slowly catching up to my mother, then her raising the bar, year after brilliant, beautiful, hard scramble year. The last thing she said to me from her hospital bed was “See you in the morning.”

While she overestimated the time that she had left in the world that night, she was not without hope when she left it. She was eating ice cream and poised for the next spoonful when the nurses found her. I love that up to her last moment she was prepared to savor life. She knew how to plant hope, both in herself and in others.

The world could really use some new plantings of hope. Yes, it could also use some civility, restraint, and intellectual, emotional, humane and real-life practical brain power too. Oh, and a gut check of how compromised our tiny home planet has become. That would be helpful, since there really aren’t any summer homes available on Mars.

It takes a lot of courage, conviction, tenacity and uncommonly common sense to be heard above all the dissonance. And major funding, of course, for any of it to have a chance of being heard at all.

So how do we plant seeds of change in this climate? The same way we get fresher produce: we do it locally, one by one. Then 10 by 10. And on and on from there. Will it make a difference? It will make a difference in you. And if something makes a difference in you, you can make a difference in something. 

  1. Start local with something you genuinely value. Parks, hiking trails and other outdoor places are great to get connected with and are often specific in their needs. This could be an old park that’s gone to semi-ruin, or an historic landmark that needs some volunteer labor, or a running trail that’s strewn with litter and full of ruts. Volunteer to help one Saturday a month and see where that leads.

  2. Volunteer one day a month at an animal shelter to exercise the animals, or work at the front desk helping visitors find a forever friend to adopt. Consider adopting a pet too.

  3. Volunteer at the hospital to hold babies that are receiving extra medical care and benefit from the warmth of loving human beings while they wait to go home. Being close to brand new life is a kind of miracle in itself, and we can all use a tiny miracle in life.

  4. Put your little—or big--toe into local politics, either by volunteering to serve on a committee, canvas for a candidate or, gulp, run for an office that calls you. Win or lose, you’ll learn something about the process, and yourself. Let that knowledge make you a better, more involved person in something that truly matters to you.



Kate Kerry Spencer is a Pacific Northwest writer, editor, and publisher. Learn more about her upcoming memoir, Smoke: A Story of Love, Lies and Cigarettes

Smoke is the story of fatal consolations--tobacco, denial and deceit--and the second chances that can come to us in the most unlikely places. For this mother and daughter it was a rehab center where the two women wrestled with cigarettes, scrambled brains and each other--and in the process, found the long way back to love.

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