I was driving my 13-year-old to basketball the other day and the radio was on in the background. A senior politician being interviewed about the bush fires was trying to deflect around the connection between climate change and the current bush fires crisis we are facing all around Australia. As we drove, our eyes and throat’s scratchy from the smoke haze, the radio announcer concluded with “there is no end in sight for the drought, catastrophic bushfires or smoke haze”.
My son piped up “ Mom you know it is all too late. There is no future for my generation” Boom there it was, my 13 year old was very matter of fact and seemly without hope for his future.
I was stunned. I said ‘Bud you know us humans are incredibly creative and adaptable. We will figure this out. We are good at problem solving” His response was a classic teenage shrug. I dropped him off and drove to the local beach and watched a post-apocalyptic sunrise over an ocean that was a weird green grey colour. Wow hard to muster up a lot of conviction about the future on this day.
But this idea of my son’s hopelessness left me feeling very concerned. I needed answers.
My usual response to a parenting challenge is to research research research! I once came across a great quote “a concerned mother does better research than the FBI”. This is me.
So according to Wikipedia “Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: “expect with confidence” and “to cherish a desire with anticipation.”
How can we live without hope? For me it seems as important as oxygen for our well-being and for a life well-lived.
In my research I came across a wonderful documentary by filmmaker Damon Gameau who was concerned about his young daughter’s future. In it he travels the world in search of new approaches and solutions to global warming. It is more than a movie, it is a movement that invites everyone to have a vision for 2040. https://whatsyour2040.com/
My first insight was that having a positive vision can inspire action and hope. Damon’s vision is truly inspiring and hopeful.
Then I came across a wonderful article published in The Guardian which was an interview between Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Ocasio-cortez https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/29/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-met-greta-thunberg-hope-contagious-climate. In that interview Alexandria says “From there I learned that hope is not something that you have. Hope is something that you create, with your actions. Hope is something you have to manifest into the world, and once one person has hope, it can be contagious. Other people start acting in a way that has more hope.”
My second insight is that hope is not something you have but something you create by taking action.
And third, hope is contagious. By taking action and becoming hopeful, others around you also become hopeful. If those around you are more hopeful you become more hopeful. A virtuous circle.
Martin Luther King once said “Everything that is done in this world is done by hope”. I would suggest we need to add vision and action to the mix. Now how to sell this to my teenager?
Leah Sparkes is a Leadership Development Coach, EQ / Mindfulness Teacher and Blogger based in Sydney, Australia