On HOPE…

Thank you to Martin Thompson for this guest blog, which is adapted from a post he wrote for Advent on his own blog. Martin teaches RE at Uffculme School. He is a big supporter of TEDxExeter in his work, bringing pupils to the events and using videos in the classroom. In the early years, when the event was in the school holidays, he was a volunteer with a view from the wings of the Northcott.

Clare Bryden, TEDxExeter Storyteller

 

Hope.

I wonder what comes to mind when you hear that word?

Dreams?

Aspirations?

A desire for something to change?

Expectation?

There’s been enough going on in our world recently to make even the most optimistic progressive want to give up. We’ve even taken to criticising those of us who have suggested that things may not be as bad as we at first think, that this may be a time of challenge, but also of great opportunity.

Hope appears diminished, besmirched somehow…an unattainable wisp of a thing. Our world is a mess, with little to suggest that there’s any way out. To say we ‘hope’ sounds like an unattainable expression of an idea, not any concrete reality.

We are crushed. Hope is gone.

Sometimes the English language simplifies concepts that deserve much more interesting definitions. A great example of this is the word ‘love’ – which could be used to describe desire for our partner, our interest in an author or a football team…but in Greek there are at least four different words for love – agape, philos, eros, storge… each reflecting a slightly different dimension of the same thing.

It could be helpful to explore whether there might be a better way to think about hope – perhaps looking at other understandings, other dimensions that help us glimpse something different.

For example, the Greek word that we translate as ‘hope’ – elpis – might better be translated as ‘expectant’. A sense that something is coming, something is happening. Not an empty, dreamy thing, but a visceral, tangible expression of denial that the way things are is the way things have to be.

Another helpful example might be the Latin version of the word spero, which is etymologically related to the word spiro, ‘to breathe’. It’s almost as if they’re saying to hope is to breathe, or vice versa, to breathe is to hope.

If we breathe, we have hope. If we have hope, we keep breathing.

A Latin phrase based on the works of Theocritus and Cicero echoing this idea says simply this:

Dum spiro spero…

‘While I breathe, I hope…’

Just take that in for a moment.

We breathe, we hope.

We are hope.

Our world is a mess, but we are bearers of that which has the potential to transform all that appears dark into light – hope.

We must never give up our expectation, our breath. To do so would be to stop breathing, to expire.

To die.

Dum spiro spero…

Our world is changing for ever. Something is coming, something real. But what that ‘something’ is depends on us and how it impacts us is our choice.

Our choice is to shape that change, to engage with it and bring ‘hope’ to those who feel they have nothing to live for other than hate of the ‘other’ – or to give up and to allow the darkness to overwhelm us.

Our choice is to be expectant that our efforts can and will counter those of forces who want to see us divided and in conflict – or to stand by and allow event greater horrors to emerge.

Our choice is love over fear.

We live or die by our choices. They cost us and those around us dearly every single day.

Choosing not to act, not to hope isn’t a neutral place to be. Too much is at stake here. Too many lives. We choose acceptance over resistance.

If we stop believing we stop hoping. If we stop hoping, we stop breathing.

I choose to believe.

I choose hope.

I choose to breathe.

#alwayshope

Reasons to be Cheerful

I subscribe to GRIN. That is to say… Every Monday to Friday, I get a bulletin from the Grants Resources Information News, which focuses on one grant scheme or related resource. Every alternate Friday it features a blog by TED fan and philanthropy advisor Emma Beeston. I thought today’s tied in nicely with the theme of TEDxExeter 2017, which we have just announced: HOPE. Emma was happy for us to feature it as a guest blog.

Clare Bryden, TEDxExeter Storyteller

 

Depending how you get your news, it can easily feel that we are living in gloomy and uncertain times. So, as the evenings get darker, it is important to keep looking for the positives that are all around us.

Not to delude ourselves (as my teenage son puts it when I endeavour to be cheerful, “life is not all rainbows and butterflies”) but to give us hope that positive change is possible. These are the reasons to be cheerful that I have gathered over the past few weeks and that give me cause for optimism: 

  • I attended a training session for small charities supporting refugees across the SW, which was co-hosted by Unbound and Lloyds Bank Foundation. I was very impressed by the fact that, despite the considerable difficulties they face to deliver vital front line services, all the charity leaders were also working to achieve systemic change. And one of the advocacy trainers reminded us all that the campaign to abolish the slave trade was started by just 12 people coming together.
  • The Funding Network held a live crowdfunding event in Bristol. The pitches were excellent – getting your case for support across in six minutes is no mean feat – and over £25k was raised for the five good causes. These were all small organisations where this level of funding, and the recognition, will make a big difference. But what struck me was the positive energy in the room created by people coming together and wanting to help.
  • I got to visit Exeter CoLab as they hosted the latest meeting of the Funding SW funders forum. This is such a good example of bringing services together to tackle social issues. I liked the focus on relationships, with those in difficulty telling their story just once and then being introduced to the individuals who can help them, rather than being constantly referred from one organisation after the next.
  • I have started using 360Giving website. After so many years of talking about data sharing and transparency, it is fantastic to have this open resource where you can see who has given grants to who. Do take a look, and if you are a grant-maker, add your data.

The millennials are coming and they are going to change things. I have been reading lots of research showing how millennials want to combine working with doing good. And this includes their activity in philanthropy and investment (e.g. a World Economic Forum study surveyed 5,000 millennials in 18 different countries and found that their overall top priority for any business should be “to improve society.”). Here is one article with some examples of what the next generation are up to.

And these are just some examples.  I have also visited and read about lots of other excellent charities who are working really hard to bring about positive social change. Thanks to all of them for giving me hope for our collective future.