I have always loved these stanzas by Emily Dickinson:
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops-at all
I’ve repeated them multiple times to myself. They speak to me. They make sense. They somehow “explain” the unexplainable nature of hope itself.
I’ve been asked, more than once, why I remain a hopeful person — often despite circumstances that would be more logically explained by desolation or despair. I never have a very good answer.
There was a time, decades ago, when I would have attributed it to my religious tradition — a fruit or quality or characteristic that was inherently mine to hold on to, to grip, to cling to no matter what. But that is not what I’d say today.
I’ve left religion, but hope has not left me.
Hope is a given, a truth, a “thing” that just is. Not a choice or some kind of mood that I fall into, hope is gritty and raw and fierce. Ever present. Mine to claim, stand in, and trust.
It is highly possible that you don’t see or experience hope this way at all, that it is far more often fleeting and distant than stable and felt. It is also highly possible that you have lived through (or do still) circumstances that have caused any hope you might have once known to dissipate and disappear — at least to wane. Believe me, I understand.
If either/both of these are the case, I’d invite you to consider the possibility that maybe hope is nothing you have to hold on to, or try to find again; maybe it was never lost in the first place. I’d love for you, like Emily Dickinson, to at least entertain the idea, even if just for a moment, that your hope has never stopped — at all — ever.
There are two more stanza’s to Dickinson’s poem…that I often forget about:
And sweetest — in the Gale — is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet — never — in Extremity,
It asked a crumb — of me.
Sometimes, a moment, a glimpse, a crumb, is all we need to return to hope — as our steadiest and most enduring companion along the way.
May it be so.