How do we create a new narrative of hope?
‘It’s important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. It’s also not a sunny everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse narrative. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings.’
I was really struck by these words I read last week. I’ve always thought of myself as an optimist, but it’s too black and white to be labelled as either optimistic or pessimistic. In light of what Solnit has to say, we can be optimistic about the future, which is all good and well, but then we never lift a finger to change anything; to create small ripples of goodness and growth and well-being. And conversely, we can view the world through a black, stormy lens and yet still give a damn; still help, somehow, to make other peoples lives better.
I think Rebecca Solnit has hit the nail on the head; that this new narrative of hope is what the world needs above all else. And by hope, she doesn’t mean just optimism, she means ACTION.
This is not meant to be about giving anyone a guilt trip. We are all busy people and we can be overwhelmed with the demands of our own lives, let alone trying to solve everybody else’s. But it doesn’t have to be about solving anything. As Rebecca Solnit so succinctly puts it, things will not always be fine.
It’s more about baby steps. Small actions that we can weave into the fabric of our everyday lives. Doing things rather than just thinking about them, or taking solace that there are enough people out there already putting thoughts into action. Yep, we’ve all heard this a thousand times before, but Gandhi might have just had a point when he said Be the change you want to see in the world.
So, what is it we can do? And where on earth do we begin?
Think about what inspires, excites and moves you and this is a good place to start. A quick online search will throw up a myriad of opportunities. If time is an issue for you, you can be an armchair activist, sending emails, joining campaigns and helping to raise awareness.
There is so much grimness coming out of the news on a daily basis. But this, of course, is only part of the story. Do we hear about all those people exhibiting hope through decisive action? Not enough.
I am a writer. We all have a ‘thing’ (yes, even if you don’t know what it is – you just haven’t found yours yet) and writing and books are mine. With that in mind, here are a couple of incredible organisations that are filled with the kind of active hope that Rebecca Solnit talks about. Hats off to them.
IBBY is the International Board on Books for Young People. It has a number of mission statements, but at heart aims to foster international understanding through children’s books and provide access to books to young people the world over.
Ibby functions across the globe and I read recently about a project that Ibby Lebanon (LBBY) are involved in. As the flow of Syrian refugees into Lebanon becomes steadily greater, a bibliotherapy* project has been initiated in two public schools that Syrian children attend. To date, nearly 45,000 US$ has been sent to support this project whereby children give up their free hours on saturday’s to attend sessions at school using books as a way in to talk about feelings and what they have been through.
Julinda Abu Nasr leads the project and, in her words, ‘ There is no doubt in my mind that the work we are doing with these children is lighting a candle in the dark tunnel they have had to cross too early in life… This program is helping them deal with their hate and anger by trying to channel these negative destructive feelings into more positive venues rather than directing it towards self or others.’
To read the full report and support Ibby’s work click here.
PEN promotes literature and freedom of expression through the written word. Founded in 1921, it has grown to span over 100 countries, defending ‘…unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations.’ Numerous campaigns exist across the globe at all times to help persecuted writers, ranging from campaigning to freeing imprisoned journalists to providing creative workshops for refugees and asylum seekers.
One of the hundreds of campaigns taking place, #FreeRaif is fighting to release imprisoned Saudi writer and founder of website Free Saudi Liberals, Raif Badawi, for expressing opinions on his blog unacceptable to the Saudi state. For more on this click here. So many of us (me included) take freedom of expression for granted, but when you start to do a little digging, the persecution of thousands of writers the world over for expressing opinions is sobering.
I have briefly mentioned two of thousands of amazing acts of hope that are taking place. There is never a better time than the present moment to add our own candle of hope to the world.
* If Bibliotherapy is a new term for you, it promotes healing through the medium of reading books, stories and poetry.
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