April 12, 2020

Dear Hope Nation,

Forty-four years ago, I began Army basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Given my clownish nature, you might expect basic training would have been hellish for me, going against my improvisational style. You would be wrong.

I have spent a good amount of my life on various stages and in front of cameras, before and, especially, after military service. During my best moments in basic, I pretended I was a soldier and tried to act the part. After awhile, the difference between “acting” and “being” faded. When I put on protective gear and walked into a gas chamber, marched five miles or polished my boots for 20 minutes, I began by playing the role of soldier and ended up actually by being one, just as I’d hoped.

A little less than 13 years ago, I began a new life in recovery at the Veterans Administration Hospital in White River Junction, Vermont. Given my clownish nature, you might expect early recovery would have been hellish for me, going against my improvisational style. You would be wrong.

I had lost my job, my home and my self-respect and found enough desperation about returning to active addiction that I tried any suggestion offered me by someone with more sobriety, I identified a spiritual mentor and took seriously what he offered and I listened instead of talking. Little by slowly, changes occurred, and I found myself a person in long-term recovery, just as I’d hoped.

At the 2008 Republican convention, former New York Mayor Rudy Guliani declared “Hope is not a strategy” in attacking Democratic candidate Barack Obama’s slogan touting “Hope and Change.” Guliani was absolutely right. Hope is not a strategy, for strategy describes the ultimate destination and a general route while tactics outline the specific steps you’re going to take.

Hope is not a strategy—it is not a goal in itself. Hope is a tactic, and a damned good one. If we think of the four classic military tactical functions—firepower, mobility, protection and shock action—hope is an audacious part of that last one. Nothing is more effective against the enemies of depression, anxiety, despair or pain than hope, the belief not only that things can get better, but the faith they will. Hope is the antidote to our fears, whether about life in general or Covid-19 in particular, whether about finances as a whole or current unemployment. Used properly, hope can defeat any negative opponent. Really and for true.

Today is Easter, a day of renewal, of resurrection, a day of hope. For each of you, whether your hope lies in the risen Jesus, the teachings of Buddha or Gandhi or the life force that “through the green fuse drives the flower,” I wish only that you cherish that hope, hold that hope firm to your breast and allow tactical hope to prevail against whatever demons trouble you.

After all,

You matter. I matter. We matter.

Keith

If, like me you’re not much of a praying person, you may find meditation on high sentiments useful. Below are some quotes about hope. If I know who said them, they’re attributed.

  • “When the world says, ‘Give up,’ Hope whispers, ‘Try it one more time.’ “
  • “Walk on with hope in your heart, and you’ll never walk alone”–Shah Rukh Khan
  • “A whole stack of memories never equal one little hope.”–Charles M. Schultz
  • “All it takes is one bloom of hope to make a spiritual garden.”–Terri Guillemets
  • “No matter how dark the moment, love and hope are always possible.”–George Chakiris
  • “Beliefs create reality” ~ Melody Beattie
  • “What is broken can be mended. What hurts can be healed. And no matter how dark it gets, the sun will rise again.”
  • “Maybe everyone can live beyond what they’re capable of.”
  • “You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”–Pablo Neruda
  • “The thought that life can be better is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains.”—Paul Simon
  • “I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”—Anne Frank