I spotted this sunflower the other day when I was walking our dog, this single bloom growing out of a rock. Lots of parallels jumped into my head, of course, of blossoming despite adversity and beauty surviving even in the rockiest times (a la our current world order). But then one word rose out of all my jumbled thoughts:
Yes, my delighted brain told me, this flower is like a picture of hope, or at least, what can grow when just the smallest seed of hope is planted.
And in writing and life, hope is so necessary.
In her 2017 Wilder Medal acceptance speech, author Nikki Grimes talked about the power and importance of hope. Hope, she said, has been her lifeline: “I’ve come to count on its sturdiness, and I can’t imagine having made my way through the world otherwise.”
I know exactly what she means.
Hope features prominently in my upcoming middle grade novel, and like Nikki Grimes said, hope is something I’ve also come to hold onto in my life. I’ve found that, no matter what, as long as I have the slimmest sliver of hope, I can walk through almost anything.
We all have hope within us, but I believe that like any other part of ourselves, the more we use it, the stronger it will get. Too often, though, people fall into situations that are so dire, they don’t see any way out and their spark of hope dims and can even go out.
That’s when people give up. Sometimes, it can mean giving up on a dream, or an idea, but losing hope altogether can mean giving up on life. And that’s the worst possible outcome.
But I truly believe that hope can be reignited in anyone at anytime—like that sunflower, hope can grow no matter how rocky our lives. Hope just needs to be remembered, to be ignited. And sometimes it takes someone else, or something, to do that.
Stories are one of the ways people have kept hope alive for thousands of years. From cavemen telling stories of courage and bravery over fires, to the ancient Greeks playing out stories of powerful gods on a stage, to Jesus telling stories of sinners being pardoned—tales have given us hope.
Hope that we can be brave.
Hope that we can survive.
Hope that we can be forgiven.
Whether we’re reading about princesses in fantastical worlds, or teens in space, or reluctant warriors in a dystopian future, the strength of the characters gives us hope that, like them, we can achieve what we need to.
I think this is one of the reasons I’m drawn to writing, this idea that no matter what’s going on, I can create some good—some hope—within a story. And if it works in the story, it can work in my life as well.
So, if you need to ignite your hope, or you know someone struggling with it, find a story, find a book. Everytime we share a story, we share hope. And that’s how we become better.
And if we need another reminder of the power of hope, here’s a little something my husband just shared with me from one our favorite movies, The Shawshank Redemption:
What are your favorite stories of hope?