Sometimes I struggle to get up in the mornings. The hope is gone.
My head is like hot chewing gum gripped to the pillow. My body feels stuck and heavy. No amount of will-power can get it to move. I switch off the phone, close the laptop and refuse to engage with the news.
I tell colleagues and friends I’m uncertain if I’m making any difference. Is the justice work we are doing actually meaningful? We tell ourselves it is – but is it really? Are we making a change or just passing time with good people, having nice cups of tea?
Justice work is slow
So slow sometimes it is not clear if we are actually moving.
The hard wins we gain are small, and the future wins will be even harder. The organising, the fighting and the resisting are exhausting. I feel tired: physically and mentally.
Sometimes switching off or having critical conversations is a good thing. It is an opportunity for self-care and healthy questioning. These moments can guide us back to our bright centre.
Despair is a luxury
Too much ignoring or questioning leads to inaction.
Inaction leads to despair and despair is the easy way out. Despair is a luxury my white skin, university education and relative financial security can afford: A privilege millions of others can not indulge in. Despair gives us permission to give in.
People whose lives are at stake can’t stop. Their very survival depends on being awake to the world around them.
Even in my own space of privilege, as a woman and survivor, I can’t switch off most of the time. I can’t switch off the eyes glued to my body, the fear I feel walking down dark alley-ways or the triggers of past violence. For millions of people whose struggles are far greater than my own, there is no switch off button. The world we have built and ignored, with its racism, prejudices and violence will never allow it.
We need you to switch on, to be awake and to act in hope. It’s ok to pause and re-energise. That pause is so important. But then press play again.
Hope is the enemy of despair, the hero against hate, the guide for lost anger.
Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away.
The first actions of people who bring violence and harm to our world are to try to cut out the hope in our hearts. To spread despair and fear’s deadly virus. They know hope, the belief that things can be better, is the only thing that can destroy them.
Hope gets you out of bed when you’re exhausted. Hope gives you legs to stand when everyone else sits down. Hope gives you voice when the room shuts its mouth. Hope–hope–hope.
Hope brings courage, hope brings action and hope brings change.
Hope is not naive
It’s important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine.
Hope is not an ignorance of the world. Hope does move us away from easy despair to act. Hope is the belief that what we do matters – even if we don’t know what will happen. Hope is action and action is hope.
People will mock your hope
People will call you naive, ignorant and child-like. But hope is your most powerful force – it is your super-power. Never, ever let anyone take it away.
It is not ignorant or stupid to say the world would be a lot worse, were it not for the actions of people saying we want better – we deserve better. Just peep into history. The past proves that the actions of people made the impossible, possible. Freedoms like the right-to-vote, marriage equality and desegregation. These freedoms only came about because people hoped for better and took action to make it happen.
It is true we have no idea where all of this hope will get us – hope is uncertain.
Doors can open, close or budge just an inch – enough for us to pull, tug and tear it from the hinges: letting the people in. Uncertainty means we can move change in our favour: no one can prove otherwise.
Only hope will sustain and protect our victories
Movements and revolutions take time to build. The women’s struggle for the right to vote took seven decades. Seven decades needs a whole lot of hope. The same is true for ideas, attitudes and beliefs. What is first considered outrageous, over time becomes what people think they always believed.
How to stay hopeful
Surround yourself with people who want to nurture, guard and ignite your hopeful belief that change can happen. With a troop like that by your side, you are unstoppable. Keep a healthy distance from those who tell you otherwise.
Finally, guard hope as your most precious, powerful resource. Taking hopeful action is all we have in creating the world and life we want. I will forever, remain hopeful with you.