“Here’s what I’ve decided: the very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. What I want is so simple I almost can’t say it: elementary kindness. Enough to eat, enough to go around. The possibility that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers nor the destroyed. That’s about it. Right now I’m living in that hope, running down its hallways and touching the walls on both sides. I can’t tell you how good it feels.” ~Barbara Kingsolver
I’ve written several times about my struggles with hope, the way that I resist it, the way that it survives deep inside even when I think I’ve sacrificed it, the way it rises from its own ashes. For me, hope has long been both a painful struggle and a necessity, and the attempt to integrate those two aspects of it has not been a smooth road by any means.
So the quote above (from today’s Inward/Outward post) really caught my eye and my imagination. What would it be like to live inside my hope? Would hope feel differently to me if I allowed myself to fully inhabit it in this way?
I think that perhaps it would.
But what struck me forcibly as I read this description of the thing that she describes hoping for is how fundamental it is. It’s something so big and yet so simple that she finds it hard to even say it. But the key is that it’s big enough to live inside and to work toward and to dream into, while still being discrete enough to provide focus.
As I think about the way that I often approach hope, I’m too afraid to hope for the big things; they feel like a raging, unpredictable river of possibilities for being disappointed. So I pick some small tame tributary because it seems safer. So instead of hoping for elementary kindness, I might hope that one specific person might treat me with kindness in a specific situation.
The ironic thing is that by picking something so small, it’s actually more likely that my hoped-for outcome will not occur because I have defined success so narrowly. It’s also too small a hope for me to fully inhabit and breathe life into, so I am not fed and nurtured by my hope. It offers me no shelter.
If I were to figure out what I truly hope for in my life, finding that hope that is big enough to inhabit and living fully within that hope, it just might allow me to live out that hope in a way that is less of a struggle. After all, if I were to live within the hope of elementary kindness, I would not only have a much greater view in which to find kindness in the world around me, I may well also find myself living more fully into kindness myself. Becoming the kindness I hope for and thus creating the very thing for which I hope in the world.
I am grateful for this new image with which to play as I continue to explore my relationship with hope. Maybe it’s time to expand my experience of hope into a hope that is big enough to live inside.
What do you hope for? How do you live inside that hope?
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