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Finding Hope, What It Feels Like, and Why It's Important

Having hope in your life is crucial to getting through tough times; however, I realize that there are some in situations where hope is hard to come by.  Below, I've chosen some video clips that epitimize hope and the role it plays in our lives.  


 In Midnight in Paristhe Kathy Bates character plays Gertrude Stein who was quoted in the movie as saying this insightful quote in the photo:  "The artist's job is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence."  Wow. When I heard this, it immediately became on of my favorite quotes. 


There are achingly beautiful novels about despair; however, I love this quote because it says an artist has a job to somehow help us find meaning in life even in the pain. I feel there needs to be more of an effort to make sure that high school students -- and even college students -- are exposed to encouraging novels rather than mainly ones about despair. I realize that students need to read about 'the human condition' as one teacher once told me -- but are we all in a constant condition of despair? I think not. Perhaps it's not really the artist's "job" or responsibility to help others find meaning in life -- but I definitely feel it is the artist's purpose.


As a writer, I can't imagine creating stories that don't uplift in some way. I'm not saying that every story has to be sugary sweet, but for me, there does have to be some element of hope or inspiration within the struggles of the story.


Shawshank Redemption is an example of this. It takes place in a prison where there is violence and misery and even includes a suicide of a released inmate who couldn't function in society after so  many years in prison, so he takes his own life. Incredibly sad, incredibly moving  -- but done in a context that still inspires, encourages, still gives hope. It's based on the Stephen King book Rita Hayworth & the Shawshank Redemption. The first scene here is after Andy (Tim Robbins) has been in solitary confinement, and the other inmates commiserate and say how bad it is to be in isolation; but, Andy (who played records over the prision PA system) said that he had music to keep him company in there. The others ask if he was allowed to take the record player in there with him, and he says 'no,' that he had the music in his soul, that the prison system couldn't take away the hope inside him. The clip is entitled, "The Power of Hope in the Midst of Difficulties."  


The second clip from this movie is near the end when Andy's friend, Red (Morgan Freeman), is finally released. Red had never wanted to hope during all the years he was in prison because it hurt too much to get his hopes up; yet, Andy always said that hope was what got him through the rough times, that you have to keep hoping or you will succumb to depression and sadness.  So Andy has a message about hope for Red in this clip.


October Sky is the true story of how a boy grew up in a coal mining town but dreamed of going into space instead of going down in the mines. Even when he shows an aptitude for engineering & rocket science, his father wants him to fulfill his duty by working in the mines. This poignant scene in the mineshaft as he looks up at the stars is heart-wrenching, as it seems his dreams are over. But they aren't . . . Another movie with the theme of hope, based on the book, Rocket Boys.







If we are going to offer our children anything,

       let it be hope.       

                                                                 author Kristin Randle                    

Jim Valvano's ESPY speech is one of the most famous speeches ever made about remaining positive in the face of adversity, about not giving up.  In March of '93, he was awarded the inaugural Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award at the first annual ESPY Awards -- just about a month before he died of cancer.


In 1983,  his NC State Wolfpack team won the national championship, one of the most exciting championship games in history; the ending is still replayed every college season. After that big win, Valvano - a wonderful speaker and a heck of a funny guy -- began to be noticed by national media and became a personality of sorts. He also became Athletic Director at NC State. 


In early 1989, however, he encountered adversity in his role of basketball coach at North Carolina State (the school my dad/brother/husband/sons went or go to and the school I've always been an avid fan of). Accusations that were later proven to be false were leveled against him by a former student assistant. The leaders of the public college system in North Carolina -- along with the some of the local  media -- ran with these accusations, and he was forced to leave NC State.  The only accusations that proved to be real were that some players sold their athletic shoes and tickets -- something that was not that big of a deal and certainly not something that warranted his dismissal from NC State. 


After he left State, he became a popular broadcaster on ESPN and ABC. In mid-1992, he was diagnosed with cancer. He lost his life to the disease in April of 1993. I heard about his death on the way back from the hospital where I was visiting my young nephew, Jacob, who was also fighting cancer. But Coach V's words and enthusiasm for life lives on in this speech.  He visited center court of an NC State basketball game in February before he died, and it was obvious NC State loved Jim Valvano, and he loved State. Will never forget him leading the fight song, as he was barely able to stand.  

High Hopes 

In The Gifts of Jimmy V written by Bob Valvano, Jim's younger brother, told about a night right before Jim died when Bob was with him and Jim's daughter, Jamie, in the hospital room.

His story goes back to the fact that Jim used to sing the Sinatra songs, "Would You Like to Swing on a Star?"  & "High Hopes" around the house when they were growing up. Jim wasn't the best singer, but he sang loud.  

Excerpt below:


"On that impossibly sad April night at Duke University Hospital I decided to sing those songs to my brother. I launched into the first one. With dawning awareness, Jim struggled to sit up in bed as a lucid, happy smile came across his face. In a clear voice, he started to sing too. Loudly. Then Jamie joined in, and even though we were unsure of some of the words, Jim kept us going. I hadn't sung it much since I was four, and couldn't remember all the animals mentioned, but that was no problem for Jim. "High Hopes" was next, and though we were all a bit fuzzy on those words, what we lacked in precision we more than made up for in volume and enthusiasm. My brother, Jamie's dad, was back, albeit briefly.

That's the last time I feel I really saw Jimmy."    


So when I hear the "High Hopes" song now, I think of Jim Valvano, of his gifts of humor and motivation -- of him singing this a day or so before he died in a hospital room, singing loud and off-key.  It makes me smile, and it makes me cry.  And it makes me think. Coach V would like that. 




Sometimes things are all a matter of perspective. There's no better example of this than "It's a Wonderful Life" -- one of the all-time most hopeful and positive messages of all:  you do matter and you have made a difference in the lives of others, even though you might not realize it. Each of  us has touched the lives of others in a positive way, and they touch ours -- and this makes life worth living, if we will only look at the big picture and realize there are wonderful things in our lives  -- even though we have troubles too. 

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