Recently, I was in community with fellow educators – educators who have lived through a crisis and who continue to educate proudly and powerfully - caring, leading, guiding, listening, and persevering. As we reflected, I recognized a theme of hope. Most importantly, not only hope that things will get better but also the active sprinkling of the seeds of hope to others. Planting the seeds, cultivating them, checking in to add the right fertilization – the necessary words, wisdom, care, or listening that might be needed.
I’ve been thinking about hope a lot – defined as a desire accompanied by an expectation or belief in fulfillment. In Greek, the word is “elpis” and, in mythology, Elpis is the spirit of hope or expectation. In the myth of Pandora, Pandora was given a jar sealed with all the evils of the world – suffering, pain, misery, and sadness were just a few. Pandora released all the evils of the jar into our world but hope, Elpis, remained in the jar to be sealed back within. Some interpretations will share that once all the evils were released, hope, separated from all those evils, became something new evolving from an evil, such as foreboding, to a virtue of hope. Other interpretations consider Pandora’s jar to represent human beings. At some point, all evil was released, and hope remains.
What intrigued me about the conversation and reflection with these educators was their interpretation of hope. Hope was not a dreamy, ethereal seed that magically might sprout and grow but, instead, there was action needed – planting, cultivating, fertilizing. The hope was not just a desire or an expectation but an engaged attitude of action toward growth and thriving.
Hope, elpis, has been a focus lately – as I engage in a new journey both professionally and personally. In reading more today (gosh, the Greeks and their myths might have created the first rabbit holes), I was reminded that the two gifts of Prometheus to humanity were hope and fire. Hope can help with our struggles toward a brighter future and fire is the success built from that struggle.
In both the ancient Greek mythology and the reflection with educators in 2023, hope is more than expectation. It is an expectation in need of action. With the hope of food or warmth, a garden may be started, a fire may be built. One cannot build a garden without planting, cultivating, fertilizing, watering, caring, and harvesting. One cannot build a fire without the action of the gathering of tinder and kindling providing the spark, then fuel, then fire. To activate hope into a fire, one may want to begin with some tinder of grass or bark or pine needles – something small and attainable. A call to a friend, a walk in nature, a meditation, a savoring of coffee, a lighting of a candle might give hope a spark. Then branches and twigs are the kindling that enriches that tinder making hope, an expectation, into a fire, the expectation fulfilled. What is the kindling, the hope, you might gather to be the catalyst to your fire, to your expectation, to your want, to your need, to your faith, to your spirit? Consider your support systems, your own self-efficacy, your strength, your resilience, the embrace of your own narrative, and your own perseverance as the kindling to light your fire.
A garden or a fire? What might you need - to be fed or to be warmed? Both can provide sustenance and comfort depending on the need Both need action, cultivation, building, gathering, and care. Begin with hope.