The following was written by Aya Al-Shalchi
Mark Twain famously said that ‘the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why’. I knew my purpose from the age of twelve. My experiences in Iraq and Libya instilled in me a passion to change this world and make it a better place. My passion dictated my life decisions including career and academic ones. I followed the path that would lead me to making this world better, a seemingly aspirational and far-fetched goal. At times it seems like the world is too far gone in its complexities, diseases and manipulative politics. At times, it seems like even the greats have lived and worked tirelessly only to earn the title of ‘attempt’ rather than ‘accomplishment’. At times, I found there to be conflict between my passion to make the world better and feeling helpless at anyone’s ability to do so. However, I argue there is still hope.
Hope is a powerful tool for changing the world and creating a better future. Without hope, it becomes difficult to find motivation to work hard, to persevere despite obstacles, and to continue in the face of knowing that the change sought may never be found. But with hope, one persists, optimistic about the unknown future. In seeking to remain hopeful, one must first define and understand what it means to have hope.
I understand hope to be a positive force that drives my actions, a force that prevents me from giving up and a force that can inspire others. If, while searching for hope, one relied on quantifiable hope then all hope would be lost. Hope is not a measure of our successes, but it is a measure of our determination to create successes.
Hope can be found through understanding our present actions shape our future. Often times, we project our present onto our future, meaning that we assess our current situation and deduce the future from this situation. This process ends up giving us an image of a future that is not so different from the present. In doing so, we tend to lose hope of the possibility of a different and better future. However, it is important to realize that hope is an internal and cognitive process that manifests itself through our actions. Making the future better means consciously holding on to hope for a better future and allowing it to dictate our actions.
Hope is not only an individual concept but also a social and communal one. A better future is created through the interaction of individual hope with communal hope. The Ebola outbreak demonstrated the power of hope at the individual level. During this outbreak there has been no lack of inspirational caregivers and healthcare providers, sacrificing their lives to help others. Rebecca Johnson is one example of a remarkably selfless and heroic woman, a woman who leapt at the first chance to help others get through being infected. Upon contracting the disease herself, she spent time to recover and then went back to fighting Ebola with a newfound compassion. Instead of running away and protecting herself, she came back even more determined. What motivated this woman, and many others like her, is the hope of knowing that her actions make a difference.
Collective action motivated by hope can be seen through the international response to Ebola. The outbreak prompted an exceptional international cooperation to curtail the epidemic and protect lives. A wide variety of global organizations mobilized their resources and personnel to assist the affected countries. It is through these times of urgent need that we see the sparkle of hope. The individuals and organizations that responded did so because they had hope their actions could make a difference; the result is that they did. Ebola is not completely eliminated, however remarkable successes have been made.
In recognizing that our actions are solely responsible for creating a change, we can find hope in knowing that every day can be made a better day. One person alone may not be able to make it happen. But that individual’s contribution is essential. In understanding the true meaning of hope and the influence it can have on the future, we must ensure to act purposefully, realizing our actions matter when combined with the actions of the collective.