Hope — what happens when one loses hope
I’ve never paid much attention to what it means to have hope or lose hope. That was for people who were not able to take charge of their lives, who were passive, and all they could do is “hope.” Until a few years ago, I found myself in a situation where I realized that I had lost all hope for our future for our family and the whole world. It was a profound experience of the saddest kind. I realized once we lose hope, we lose everything.
It took me some time to climb back from this dismal state of mind, which felt like a vast black hole in my soul. Since then, I have encountered some very pertinent material in books, which has strengthened my resolve never again to fall back to this place of “no hope.” I decided to become a source of strength and provide inspiration on how to come out of ANY situation with new hope.
The following excerpt from the book “A Path Appears” written by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
“A Kenyan Named Kennedy.” One of the largest slums in Africa is Kibera, in Nairobi. Crime is widespread; garbage and sewage are everywhere. Life here can be smelly, scary, and depressing. You see, young men, sprawled in the dirt alleys drunk or drugged into a stupor. They’ve given up. This is where Kennedy Odede grew up. He was born to a fifteen-year-old unwed mother, and the community discussed killing him at birth, for such was his tribe’s tradition for male babies born out of wedlock.
But the elders decided to spare the baby for two reasons. First, a drought had just ended, and it was considered auspicious that Kennedy’s birth coincided with the much-anticipated rains. Second, he arrived by a breech birth with no medical help, and there was a local tradition that a baby who came feet first and survived would grow up to be a leader. So the elders decided to let the boy live and name him after a person who, to them, exemplified leadership — President John Kennedy — while also saddling him with the middle name Owiti, meaning “unwanted.” Kennedy’s mother was illiterate, and he never knew who his father was.
By all odds, Kennedy should be one of those unemployed men in a stupor, for the was the eldest of eight children and received no formal education. At the age of seven, he was selling peanuts in the market to help his family survive. His mother then married a man who was brutal to her and Kennedy, and the boy noticed that his presence made his stepfather beat his mother more. So at the age of ten, he ran away from home and began living on the streets, sleeping under stalls in the marketplace.
Yet somehow young Kennedy was imbued with a mysterious confidence in the future, perhaps because he knew that elders expected him to become a leader. “I think some people are simply born as hopeful people — it sounds funny to say so, but I can’t think of any other explanation,” he says. “I always woke up, especially early, around 4 am, determined to make each day better than the last.” Then he would watch the sun rise as he thought about something his mom would tell the children when they were especially hungry: You should be grateful for things that are given to rich and poor in the same measure, like the light of the sun.
Kennedy was obsessed with learning and desperate to read. When he found scraps of old newspapers, he would struggle to read the words, asking people for help. A Nun took Kennedy in tutored him in reading. He impressed foreign visitors in Kibera with his passion for learning. A visiting researcher gave him a biography of Nelson Mandela. Kennedy was mesmerized. Later an American gave him “A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writing and Speeches Martin Luther King. Jr.
Kennedy struggled with the English but was riveted by the idea of bottom-up community organizing. He bought a cheap soccer ball and started a youth soccer club to unite young people, give them a purpose, and help them tackle local challenges. “We talked about the lack of jobs, crime, the abuse women face, and poverty,” Kennedy recalls. “All of this negativity had already killed the hopes of many. They didn’t believe we could start a movement without money and that it was foolish to try. I told them there were many things we could do without money.
Yes, Kennedy says with a touch of impatience to foreigners who want to help, of course, Kibera lacks clean water and good schools, and these issues need to be addressed. But the most difficult challenge to overcome is the crippling miasma of hopelessness.
Reading this chapter has left me with renewed hope and desire to do my best and never again succumb to hopelessness and to focus not only on myself and my family.
I believe most people like myself want to help. It is an innate desire we all have. But if we don’t know how and where? I hope that the book “A Path Appears” will inspire many others and bring a bright glimmer in the neverending stream of bad news. This book has restored my trust in Help-Organizations and provided a tool to find the best suited.