This I Believe

Wilbur - Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Entered on July 6, 2006
Age Group: 65+
Themes: hope

THIS I BELIEVE — Believing The Future In!

I believe so strongly in the power of hope that HOPE has become my personal acronym for Holding Onto Positive Expectations. Years ago I hung a piece of weathered barn board, with one very faded word – HOPE – on my bedroom wall across from the bed, so that the first thing I see in the morning and the last thing I see every night is HOPE.

From time to time, I have wondered where such a completely irrational belief came from in a world that seems to take particular delight in shattering hope, from the alarm radio’s morning report to the evening news. I do know that it was firmly in place twenty-six years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer; and the oncologist told me that there was only so much they could do, the rest was up to me and a hopeful outlook. We talked about hope and he gave me tips on using laughter and music and visualization to focus on hope and exclude everything else. I believe that it worked then, and has continued to work ever since.

Perhaps it came from my incredible good fortune in having had the chance to meet Robert Frost when, as a youngster growing up in a small New Hampshire town, I heard him say, in that unforgettable voice, “Nobody ever told me I could be a poet, I just believed the future in”. Or maybe I was simply imprinted by that ’50’s Academy Award winning tune: “High Hopes”.

Whatever the source, “believing the future in” has been my personal creed at least since high school days, when a summer job at Monadnock state park in southwestern New Hampshire handed me a boss who was also a mentor. Youngsters expect their parents and grandpparents to encourage them to abandon useless doubts and pursue their dreams, but when someone else voluntarily takes on that role, it seems less a prompt and more an achievablre reality. From an average student with questionable grades and no realistic expectations for college, plus a hazy future beyond military service, I began to visualize not just being a park ranger, but someday becoming a director of parks. Somewhere along the way, added hopes of becoming a park scientist, a college professor, and an international consultant for national park systems, just seemed to fall naturally into place.

Recently, I have been exploiring the broader meaning of hope, particularly for people whose hopes have made a difference for the rest of us. I have come to believe that our hopes define us, both individually and collectively as a people. Hope, it seems is to a nation like yeast is to bread, the state of any nation rising and falling on its hopes. A nation built on hope is never complacent, always believing it can do better. And, opportunity is what keeps all of our hopes alive.. I know that one faded word has certainly worked for me.