“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
“There is some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, Sam’s Speech, The Two Towers
It’s a chipping away, I’ve found. The persistent pursuit of Hope.
Hope is this thing you don’t know you’ve lost until you experience the dark—and I fully recognize that my darkness has been a mere shadow of what others have endured. But it was still real. The death of a tiny baby growing in my womb. The discovery of a disease which threatened future babes. The deterioration of a marriage.
Despair—the great enemy of Hope—has a way of washing all color from the world, leaving everything ashy gray, lifeless. Yet from those ashes beauty can emerge anew, and this realization—the glimmer of even the slightest possibility of rebirth—this is that dawn of Hope that rises in the soul after the darkest seasons of despair.
I guess because I have walked through this valley, I wanted to give my girls something substantial to hold onto in regard to Hope. By nature, I was born with a bent toward pessimism, and even as a young girl, I quickly fell into the “depths of despair” over the smallest disappointments (cue Anne Shirley), often struggling to find my way out. Unmet expectations or something gone wrong signaled the end of the world, all gloom and doom. And while this dramatic flair might have been humorous in my childhood (albeit exhausting for my parents—both eternal optimists), it laid the foundations for some major struggles in adulthood.
And this is why Hope has been the character study focus for the last several months of our homeschool. Little did I know when I started our study that the pursuit of Hope would soon lead me into the creation of Storyweaver Mercantile, which I launched last November. In fact, the intentional focus on Hope (something I had never done before) has been one of the most life-giving experiences, one I highly recommend.
What I’ve discovered is that Hope begets Hope. Learning to fight for Hope, to repel despair with the truth of existing goodness, with a proactive chipping away at fear—this is a freeing exercise. Feeling like I’m contributing my part, however small, to make a difference in the world, to light a single candle in the darkness, brought a newfound confidence and joy. The darkness is there, but so is the good. And as Sam so famously declared, it’s worth fighting for.
It was always my plan to end our Hope study and write about it when the bulbs sprouted in spring, and as our daffodils bloomed last week, and today is Easter—the greatest illustration of Hope the world has ever known—I’ll now share some of the details from our study.
Books that develop nature as a theme often parallel the seasons with the human experience, with spring (and new growth) almost universally symbolizing Hope (and new life). This is why we read the following:
The Secret Garden – Hope in Colin’s physical healing, the restoration of his relationship with his father, and the emotional/spiritual healing of Mary and Lord Craven.
Heidi (I recommend the Helen Dole translation) – Hope that the Grandfather can be forgiven, that Heidi will return to the mountain, and that Clara will walk again.
My favorite experience we had during this study was planting winter bulbs and waiting for them to sprout. We had just finished our last “Hope” book when we planted the bulbs in early December, and as we spread the cold soil over each bulb, we discussed the meaning of Hope.
Then, three months later, my girls came running into the house, squealing with delight and dancing around the living room singing, “The bulbs are popping out! The bulbs are popping out!”
Finally, to give a full illustration of Hope, we visited our local botanical garden, where thousands of bulbs are planted each year. What a joy to be surrounded by Hope fulfilled!