“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without words
And never stops—at all”
A key component in any transformative life experience, personal or planetary, is hope. Not half-hearted or faint hope, but hope that is steadfast, sturdy, resilient, like that in Emily Dickinson’s poem. Hope within the human soul cannot be extinguished, no matter the hardship or loss. Despite the challenges of life, we humans endure because of that intangible something within us that holds us to life. Yet, there are times when hope seems shaky—as tenuous as a single candle flame wavering in a strong wind. Times such as now, when political discord, a deadly global pandemic, or personal crises erode our belief in a positive outcome. This is when hope is needed most.
Hope requires intention and commitment to keep it alive and well. Especially the latter. Commitment is the strong hand that holds trust in place and points to possibility when surrounded by what seems impossible. Commitment to oneself, to others, and to a greater intelligence that weaves a tapestry of meaning in the seemingly chaotic universe. In our dreams, we envision a better world in which all beings on the planet live in balance, health, and harmony. Those dreams arise from the divine design that shapes our lives on Earth. They are founded in hope.
In day-to-day life, how do we live that commitment, keep it strong within us? It must be part of the weaving of our relationships with family, friends, and our communities. It must live in the smiles among strangers in the streets, the friendly word to grocery cashiers or bus drivers. Commitment is fed by the feedback of connection and loving relationships. Hope grows stronger in our hearts when we feel part of something larger than our own individual lives. When we feel one, not separate. To keep the commitment to hope is to remember that we are not solitary, we are many.
I have been reminded of this repeatedly recently as I face a breast cancer diagnosis and live through the surgery and healing process. Friends and family have been key in keeping me centered in the hope in my own heart and soul. Even in the midst of fears that can accompany illness or disease (or any unknown), hope rises within us and sustains us. The feathered presence that Emily Dickinson refers to has appeared to me again and again in my life, never more than now. No coincidence that birds have been one of my greatest joys throughout the years. Their songs lift my heart and show me the vivid miracles that surround me every day. When I hear a cardinal singing outside my window, I know God is near, both within me and in the external world.
So, whatever your life situation, whatever challenges you are called to face in your life, whatever is going on in the world, look around and see the beauty, see the blessings. Nature, friends, family, the sun that rises each morning—all these call you to hope, for your own life, for all of our lives on this dear blue planet Earth. Listen to the sweet song of hope in your soul and know that each breath you take is a miracle. Commit your life to hope, and it will carry you forward, beyond any challenges, into a profound connection to something greater that your one life, to the oneness of spirit that sustains us all at the deepest level.