How do you find hope?
Recently, a client was expressing distress over the state of the world. After reviewing all the reasons he and those around him are losing hope (climate crisis, wars, polarization, loneliness, decline of cherished institutions and more), he looked at me and asked: How do you find hope?
For a long moment, I did not know what to say. There are many things that I could point to that give me hope – I have a loving family, my colleagues at Credence inspire me, my personality is inclined to notice moments of awe and beauty wherever I find them. But these are not the things my client wanted to hear about. His question probed deeper. After all, there are many things that make life worth living that nonetheless do not create a sense of hope powerful enough to counteract the deep despair at the doorstep of our collective lives. So, his question hung in the space between us: How do you find hope?
After pausing, I offered the following: I tend the garden I’ve been given to plant.
I find hope by doing my best with what I’ve been given to do. To be the leader, coach, consultant, mediator, wife, mother, friend – whatever role I’m being asked to play – to the best of my ability and with the greatest integrity that I can muster. This does not mean I do not inform myself of the despair in the world. On the contrary, I do exactly that – a lot! Nor does it mean that I always get it right. No – sadly perhaps, getting it wrong has always been part of my journey on the way to getting it right. Nonetheless, I am moved by the belief that the big transformations in the world always begin as a revolution of the heart. What we do – and how we show up – matters.
Years ago, I learned about the butterfly effect – the idea that the distant beating of butterfly wings over time and space produces a whirlwind elsewhere in the world. I love this metaphor. It is why our work in the gardens we’ve been given to tend matters. Every small act of showing up well for one another, of leading with clarity and kindness, sowing small seeds of hope makes a difference. We may not see the whirlwinds our acts of mercy create but we may see people around us more buoyant, more joyful, more at peace. Will this stop the climate crisis? Will it end wars in the Middle East, Ukraine and elsewhere? Will it reinvigorate dying institutions? On the face of it, not at all. But there is something about those butterfly wings that whispers hope into my being. Maybe, just maybe, tending the garden I’ve been given to plant matters in ways I can’t even see or imagine.
Many small people, who in many small places, do many small things, can alter the face of the world.