It’s not very cool to be hopeful. Though most people, when pressed, will acknowledge that hope is necessary in our lives, it’s a lot more hip to take on a discouraging attitude that things are just getting worse. It’s great conversation fodder--think about it--do we generally get more traction in a conversation talking about how great today’s news was or how depressing it was? Though most of us know deep down we are healthier when we are hopeful, there is still some sort of social currency and even strange comfort in dismissing the idea of being hopeful in challenging times.
It reminds me of the middle school camper on the first day of camp. This age group is so focused on being accepted in a group of their peers. It is crucially important that they fit in. The fear of not fitting in can be paralyzing, so they are often working very hard not to stand out in a way that might end with them being excluded. So, the answer to this dilemma is to be “cool;” and the playbook for “cool,” is to not involve yourself in anything risky. Stay in the back of the room, don’t volunteer for anything, sing very quietly or not at all. Don’t show any emotions that hint at vulnerability, especially enthusiasm in something risky you deeply believe in.
From the first moment of camp, we are working to release our campers and guests from their “cool,” chains, because this version of cool is certainly a safe way to go, but it also results in less connection, less challenge and growth, and less hope in anything bigger than protecting yourself. The transformations you can see in just a few days are amazing. You go from seeing a timid, frankly boring version of a person to someone excited about something, trying things, accomplishing things.
There are certainly a lot of “cool,” hopeless statements we can make about the state of our world. The more we make those statements, the more that will become our world view. The more that is our world view, the more we are that middle school camper finding a comfy place against the wall, because that is easier than putting yourself out there. Hope is something we need even when we aren’t sure why we should be hoping. It will energize us when there isn’t energy. It will keep us fed when food is scarce. And, just like “cool,” hope can be contagious, spreading through the room, transforming everyone it touches.