On being ... that time of year

By Ingrid Sapona

Yes, it’s (finally) that time of year… Time for me to do nothing but enjoy the mojitos and ceviche on the beach.

See you in mid-February ….

© 2019 Ingrid Sapona


On being ... the hope project

By Ingrid Sapona

Last week I was at someone’s house for dinner. The conversation was interesting and wide-ranging. As so often happens, at some point the topic turned to politics and world affairs. I’ll admit, it could well be that I steered the conversation there, since these things are of great interest to me.

Anyway, we were pretty politically aligned and everyone expressed their concern with what’s going on in the U.S. and elsewhere. As the discussion went on, I noticed my anxiety level ratcheting up. After commiserating for awhile, the conversation turned to speculation about how things might be a couple years from now. On this issue, we didn’t agree. 

The big difference was that everyone else thought that, over time, things would return to “normal”. Indeed, they all seemed to have a “this too shall pass” outlook. I didn’t share their optimism and I was curious as to the basis for theirs. They could tell my questioning was coming from a feeling of despair, and they earnestly offered examples of what gives them hope.

I appreciated their effort at pulling me out of my malaise, but it was to no avail. The evening ended shortly after and I went home feeling agitated and sad. I also worried that my inability to contribute to lightening the conversation made me a rather dreary dinner guest. 

The next day I was thinking about my sense of hopelessness toward the world. It’s a feeling I’ve been unable to shake for some time. I decided to reflect on some of the things my friends said that make them hopeful. Though I didn’t buy some of their rationale, there were a few points I found compelling.

For example, one was that just because we hear about all the bad things, that doesn’t mean there aren’t good things going on. My first reaction to that was that it may be true, but it’s important for the media to report on Trump’s troubling behaviour and the division he’s fomenting. My friend agreed, but again pointed out how that tends to drown out other news. Another person who’s active with a few charities said she’s hopeful because she sees the positive differences these charities make in peoples’ lives. From these examples both friends were able to extrapolate a basic human goodness that gives them hope for the future.

The next few days, I reflected more on my general hopelessness. Though it’s a very real feeling – and one that might be justified, given the state of the world – I realize it’s neither healthy nor empowering. Put another way, there’s no up side to seeing things as hopeless. With this in mind, I decided it wasn’t too late to make a New Year’s resolution so I came up with “the hope project”.

I think this project’s going to require focus and maybe some help. For starters, I’m going to need to consciously change my reading and viewing behaviour. I’m going to have to stop skipping over, or ignoring, stories that I used to consider fluff. (Note my conscious use of past tense?) Previously, I often passed over human-interest stories. I rationalized doing this because I figured there are only so many hours in a day and there’s so much hard news to get to. As part of the hope project, however, I vow to not skip such stories.

Interestingly, a couple days after starting the project I came across Nickolas Kristof’s annualcolumn where he makes the case for why the world is better now than it’s ever been. Among the examples he cites is that in 2018, on average, around the world about 295,000 people who didn’t have electricity gained access to it each day and 305,000 people gained access to clean drinking water for the first time. Each of the positives he mentioned are worthy of acclaim, though some of their impact is diminished when included in a year-end laundry list. But, as part of the hope project, over the coming year I’m going to actively seek out stories about such transformations.

I’m also going to work on savoring stories about simple acts of kindness. A case in point was a story I saw on the news about a guy who noticed a flat tire on the car parked next to him. He had an air compressor in his trunk and so he filled the tire. He also left the car owner a note saying he filled the tire, but that they may want to have it looked at. The woman whose tire was fixed was so touched by the kindness, she went on social media to find who left the note so she could thank him. When the two met, the guy who fixed the tire said he figured anyone would have done the same. Hear, hear! (Or should I say, “From your lips to God’s ears” sir.)

So, I’ve got at least a couple starting points on my hope project. I am guardedly optimistic that by the end of 2019, my overall outlook will be more upbeat. I’m also hoping I’ll have something a bit more positive to contribute at dinner parties and in other conversations. 

And finally, if you have any ideas or examples of things you think promise a rosy future – please send them along – I’ll need all the inspiration I can get!

© 2019 Ingrid Sapona