“Optimism and hope are radically different attitudes. Optimism is the expectation that things-the weather, human relationships, the economy, the political situation, and so on-will get better. Hope is the trust that God will fulfill God's promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom. The optimist speaks about concrete changes in the future. The person of hope lives in the moment with the knowledge and trust that all of life is in good hands.” This is taken,in part, from a reflection by Henri Nouwen. If you don’t already subscribe to these daily reflections, check it out at www.henrinouwen.com. For some reason, 9 times out of 10 the daily reflections sitting in my email inbox have an uncanny coincidence of being relative to the day/time I am reading them.
From this particular reflection my thoughts go directly to the line “…the person of hope lives in the moment with the knowledge and trust that all is in good hands.” I never really thought about it before but after reading this I thought I am really a person of hope rather than a person who is simply optimistic. I have always considered myself a basically happy person despite what is going on around me. However, after living through a life changing diagnoses of autism for my youngest child and more recently the diagnoses of pancreatic cancer and much too soon death of my husband Joe, I truly understand the difference between optimism and hope.
Hope is what is left when you are trying to figure out what is “wrong” with your child or how you can make the cancer go away. You know both (child and husband) are beautiful and blessings in your life, but something is not right and you need to fix it. In your search to help them, you fill your days and nights by reading book after book, you google, you read through every news clip and article that your friends pass on. You wear out highlighters, go through stacks of post it notes marking and tabbing information that may be important to know. In the end, you find yourself on your knees asking God for help. That, to me, is hope. And let me just say, I didn’t ask for God to make them better, fix what was wrong. I simply asked to give me strength to face what lies ahead. And of course being the human that I am I asked for Him to carry me through what I could not walk through alone.
That, to me, is the difference between optimism and hope. I didn’t realize it at the time. But, like I said, Henri Nouwen’s reflections seem to hit my inbox at just the time I need to read them.
My son still has autism. Joe is not here with us. But having hope, I know all is as it should be. Life is good. I have so many things to be grateful for. My friends are amazing, the ones I have known for years and the ones who have come into my life because of what has happened. I am especially grateful for the new people in my life who, by their words or actions (and I hope you know who you are without mentioning names) have shown me that, more than ever, life goes on. Don’t just take the journey, enjoy the ride.