Hope as a Foothold

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I’ve been reading and thinking about hope a lot lately. One of the books I’ve recently read on this topic is The Power of Hope: The One Essential of Life and Love by Maurice Lamm, which came out nearly 10 years ago. Lamm is a rabbi, the founder and president of The National Institute for Jewish Hospice, and author of numerous books, particularly on death and grief. Although Lamm writes about death, this book is about hope in any situation. While on the one hand I found it a bit simplistic and bordering on positive thinking, on the other hand I found it likable, comforting, and motivating. Lamm uses cases studies from his counseling and also stories from his own life to show how to take positive hopeful steps in hopeless situations. It’s a humble book that gives people who feel hopeless a place to start, a foothold. Lamm is saying to his readers: just imagine what can happen if you only say “I hope.” 

It reminded me of a talk I once heard in which the speaker told of a woman who had called her, in tears, needing her to talk through how to clean out a junk drawer. The calling woman was overwhelmed and paralyzed about the drawer, but the clear message from the woman was, please help me get my life in order by helping me order this drawer. So the speaker talked her through it – start here, do this. Begin to reclaim your life by throwing out those old pencils, the torn scratch paper, the keys that no longer fit any door. 

This is that kind of book. Here is why you need hope and here is how to start to be hopeful instead of hopeless. It acknowledges that simple acts – like even putting on lipstick – have power. (Personally, I think the boost in spirit from a little lipstick in the morning may approach statistical significance if there ever was a clinical trial measuring such a thing, and have given that advice myself. Add a swipe of eyeliner for an extra potent combination regimen.) You may or may not get what you hope for, but you will always get something, even if a better outlook.


[Photo taken of “Molecule” by Mark di Suvero at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden]