Human Services

Holding Out Hope

As one who holds out hope to others, how do you ensure you don’t run out? In this article, four areas are offered as nurturing elements for your life.

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Imagine yourself holding out hope as a gift to another person. You know they have none, you have some, and you are willing to give some of your hope away, so you hold it out for them to take. Whether they receive it or not, you are ready to give them the hope they need.

When we use the phrase “holding out hope” it’s not usually with this idea in mind of giving it away. It’s usually from the perspective of holding out hope for yourself. I submit to you that in whatever you do in service to the neighbors in your community you are holding out hope. However, I want to take the idea of passing along hope a little further. Hope itself is a resource. It may not be as measurable to your donors, but over time, stories tell the story. The individual impact and the community impact will be increasingly measurable where hope is seen as something to also give away.

Where there is little or no hope, it is difficult, if not impossible to dream, to believe in the possibility of progress, and maybe even to live. Hopelessness guts a person, families, entire communities, and nations. From food insecurity to starvation, from housing shortages to homelessness, from working poor to jobless poverty, the human needs are immense and long-standing. It’s difficult to find a reason for hope, much less feel hopeful when the challenges seem inescapable and insurmountable. 

Merriam-Webster defines hope as “desire accompanied by expectation of, or belief intwo-people-holding-hands-together-with-love-warmth-wooden-table fulfillment.” Hope can feel like a light that shows up in a totally dark room where you have been sitting immobile and trapped for a very long time. Finally, there seems to be a way out after you have wondered for so long if you will ever find an escape or be rescued.

But what if you believe you are holding out hope and later find that the hands you are holding out are empty? I’m not speaking of the tangible resource you offer. I am speaking of the intangible hope that you bear…or don’t bear. Sure, the tangibles provide some level and kind of hope, but even those can start feeling empty if they aren’t changing the storyline to a better one. 

There is something about the state of the deliverer that creates an atmosphere where these exchanges can lead to new possibilities. A hope-filled deliverer feels very different from one who has little or no hope. They carry themselves differently, interact differently, and send you off differently. 

At other times, you may hope better for others than you hope for yourself. The challenge is, eventually, that hope given to others runs out if you don’t have sources to refuel that hope in you. You can’t give what you don’t have. When you hold out your hands to give hope, are they brimming to overflow, partially full, or uncomfortably empty?

It is important to know what you can do to nurture the hope in you so that you have plenty of it to give. What are some ways to be sure that you have no shortage? Here are a few areas to consider for your self-assessment and for developing patterns for your daily and weekly life that will refuel you. As you read, I encourage you to choose one of the four main areas for focused development.

1. Your Being
How do you consistently nurture your inner being? If you don’t have some life patterns that you can immediately describe, you may not be taking care of your inner world at the level needed. If you don’t take care of your being, you are short-changing yourself, but also those whom you serve. In all honesty, most people either don’t know how to nurture their being, or choose not to. It may also be that you don’t know you. Here are a few ways to help establish some rhythms for knowing yourself and taking care of your being so that you have a strong source of hope to hold out to others.

  • Take a stroll as you observe and listen to nature -I add “listen to nature” to the stroll as an encouragement to unplug, including electronics. Leave the earbuds at home. Stroll (walk sounds like exercise) and just “be” as you listen to the birds sing, the waves roll in or crash, and observe the nature surrounding you. Be moved by it all. Let it fill you and change you. Sound strange? Try it and cultivate it for thirty days and see what happens.
  • Sit in silence or with moving music - As you sit, get out of your head and take notice of your heart and gut area. It may be difficult and seem strange initially, but that’s because you have grown accustomed to the noise around you and in your head. Find the least intrusive part of your day for this sitting. It may be early morning or later evening. For me, I find early morning to be best. I read some writings that are sacred to me and sit in silence and stillness, simply being. Journaling is a part of my pattern as well. It helps to get some things out, making room for the good that needs to move in. The stillness and quiet of the morning set the tone for my inner world as the sun eventually greets me through the window.
  • Enjoy simple time with family and friends - There are some key descriptors here: enjoy and simple. Enjoying is part of truly being present in those relationships and allowing them to feed into your being. The amount of time isn’t necessarily helpful if it is hurried and not very present. Cultivate wanting to be there. Also, don’t make it complex. If the set-up takes longer than the hangout, you are missing the point. Be with the people. Allow them to feed your soul. It is also important to know your limits. Don’t stay too long.
2. Your Body

Interestingly, how you feel physically and how you feel about your physical health has an impact on the quality of your hope. It’s difficult to help others feel good about life when you don’t feel good. So, do you consistently care well for your physical body, inside and out?

  • Quality Nutrition  - Food and drink are fuel, whether good or bad. I choose the word “nutrition” here because “diet" tends to be associated with special eating (or not eating) for weight loss and weight management. That may be a concern for you, so nutrition matters to weight management as well. Some clear adjustments most Americans need to make: more water, more produce, more whole grains, less saturated fat, less sugar. You will feel better, having more to give to those you are serving. Click here for more on quality nutrition.

  • Consistent Movement - Dance, walk, hike, run, work in the yard, wrestle with the grands, but don’t just sit or stand still. Lethargy and stagnancy beget lethargy and stagnancy. Movement helps to keep things that are supposed to be movable in your body moving as they should. It also helps your brain, our next area for hope empowerment to consider. 

3. Your Brain
How do you consistently care for that neurological center in your skull? Neuroplasticity and neurogenesis are continually growing spaces of brain science that are platforms for hope. Why? It means we can change the way we think and act when we do so with intention. But it also means the brain has to be cared for to be an agent of hope.

  • Content and Ideas - Your brain wants stimulation, whether it be books, podcasts, documentaries, courses, conferences, or conversations. It is true that some brains hunger more frequently and for more content than others. Know that about yourself. However, all brains are healthier when existing neuropathways are engaged and new pathways are formed.
  • Sleep - If your thinking seems foggy, sluggish, or scattered, maybe it needs some rest. Work to create a rhythm of rest. The amount of sleep we each need is different from person to person. Know your sleep needs and manage your life in such a way as to provide yourself with what is needed. Life…kids can make finding sleep difficult sometimes. Is there someone you can share that load with and take turns “catching up?” Work-demands overruling sleep? Maybe, but is it the work demanding it or your expectations?

  • Trying new experiences -  Learning to play an instrument, to rock climb, to cook, or to work wood (and a bazillion other options) can be both exciting and rewarding. But the benefit goes beyond enjoyment, accomplishment, and growing self-belief. It nurtures brain health. Find something new to learn how to do and watch what even happens to your dreams and visions for life, our next area of nurturing.

4. Your Belief
What do you believe about yourself, your life, your future, your neighbors, your community, and your world? To what level do you believe? Do you believe with expectation? Hope does.

  • Vision and Voices - Who do you have in your life who shares at least some portion of the same vision and hope as you? Who do you have in your life that seems to stir your energy and vision to new levels? The voices you are listening to regularly are playing a part in framing the windows through which you view your world and the doorways you seek to enter. 

  • Faith and Mission - Gallup has noted from their research that faith and mission are very significant to a person’s well-being. What matters to you? What matters to you deeply? What is the difference you desire to make and the why behind it? For many, faith and mission work in tandem with faith being the why behind their missional why.  Clarity in these “whys” is extremely important, because the work that you do serving people comes with a cost. The willingness and ability to pay the price for that cost over time must have a substantial reason. What do you believe about the work you do and the value that you bring? What you believe, whether faith-based or mission-based, will have a significant impact on the hope that you carry and share.

Of these four areas—Being, Body, Brain, and Belief—choose one where you know you need adjustments. Focus on that one for the next thirty days, considering the ideas provided here, and even exploring more. 

My purpose in this article is to show that in the space of human services, case management, community development, and collaboration building, hope is a necessary resource. That resource must be stewarded well if it is to be available at the levels demanded. 

Hope. The more you have, the more you can hold out as a gift to others. Create life and work atmospheres where hope not only survives but thrives so that you live and give from abundance.

Do you desire to strengthen your CharityTracker or Oasis Insight network to new levels of collaboration and impact? Reach out to Chuck today to schedule your conversation:

ED645C80-CA25-41C2-8B6E-A6E7FA346EC1_1_201_aDr. Chuck Coward serves as Community Impact Specialist for  Simon Solutions, Inc. Chuck has invested over 35 years in fostering human and community development from a variety of places and roles, including as a pastor, non-profit Executive Director, Director of Development, businessman, consultant, university professor, as The Struggle Coach and as founder of Entrusted Foundation. Serving to make people and communities stronger is his great passion. Chuck is the proud husband to Anita, dad to four, and granddaddy to eight. 

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