In my work I spend a lot of time talking with people about their worldview, their philosophy of life or perception of how things work in the world. Your worldview can be one of abundance, scarcity, optimistic, pessimistic, cynicism—or dozens of alternatives. I call my worldview one of realistic optimism. What forms the foundation of this perspective is hope. I don’t want to be blind to the realities of my and others’ situations, but I want to face those realities by standing in hope. I stand to make a difference to one person, in one moment.
I’ve been called a fool and worse for holding this worldview. “Hope is not a strategy. Hope doesn’t get anything done,” is what I’ve been told. What hope is, in the words of Thornton Wilder, is a “projection of the imagination.” I believe that hope is the author of strategy and the inspiration and motivation to get things done. In my imagination I can see that new things can happen, that solutions to problems can be found. So, no, hope is not a strategy—but it’s awfully hard to execute a strategy without the hope that something will be different.
This morning I was at a stoplight in Minneapolis and there was a homeless man standing with a sign that said, “Will work for food. Cold and hungry.” I lowered my window and handed him ten dollars.
“Thank you—I’m going to get some breakfast. That will be my first food of the day. Thank you. May God bless you,” he effused. Then he trotted off across the street to find breakfast.
In the back of my mind a voice whispered, “You don’t know him; you have no idea if he will actually use that money to get something to eat or use it to buy booze. Do you think you have really made a difference here? You may have made things worse.”
In closing my ears to that voice, I choose to stand in the hope that I helped a man get a hot breakfast and made his day a bit better. Hope was the inspiration for my action. The action I took is enough for now.
Martin Luther once wrote, “Even if I knew the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” That’s standing in hope.