Hope was the last of the ‘evils’ released from Pandora’s Box in Greek mythology. Raising hope can have positive and negative effects. There have been songs written about hope, and it seems that hope is a necessary part of relationships.
A dictionary definition states that it is a belief in a positive outcome. It is without a doubt an abstract concept. Some would say it is a spiritual concept and it is certainly used a lot in a wide variety of religions.
Where does hope come from?
While many people might argue that hope springs from a spiritual belief or even a belief in humanity’s ingenuity or science, that is not the only possibility.
Studies have shown that children who have a loving and supportive adult - whether that is a parent, a relative, a teacher or a friend - have a more positive attitude to themselves and to life in general.
Parents, grandparents and other members of a wider (extended family) can provide young people with encouragement, reassurance and support. Having a “cheer leader” in your corner is a robust source of hope for many. When children have strong, loving, support, with consistently defined boundaries, it is easier to form a clear self identity. It is much harder for children when they are told they are worthless or when their autonomy is breached either psychologically or physically, especially by the people who should be the cheer leaders.
Katy Perry, in her song Firework, implies that belief in yourself is where you can find hope. Helping youth find their power within can be a valuable way to assist those who feel they have no hope. If the usual sources of hope have been withdrawn from young people then we need to look at other ways to encourage hope.
If we agree that having a strong sense of hope is vital for a well-lived life, and therefore essential to develop as children grow to adults, how are we to assist this and not destroy it?
In many countries the potential to destroy the hope of the indigenous populations is strong. Colonisers have always exerted their power by making sure that the colonised are pushed to the edges. When a young person starts to perceive that he or she belongs to a marginalized group for whatever reason, hope starts to shrivel. The marginalization can be because of ethnicity, poverty, sexuality, disability or even the colour of hair. The basis for most bullying, whether it be on a small individual basis or a much larger scale in the workplace or in society at large, is the exertion of power over those that are different.
So perhaps nurturing hope involves providing strong, loving, consistent support to children and young people so that they can develop a strong sense of self identity and hopefulness. Perhaps it also lies in the nurturing of a society that accepts difference and diversity so that the ‘different’ feel welcomed and connected. Then we can all become fireworks, as in Katy's song, and not only find hope for ourselves but inspire it in others.
by Sue Bagshaw Youth Health Doctor – Christchurch NZ