The story goes that Dr King would end every meeting of his inner circle with having them gather for prayer, then circle up. They’d then stick their hands in the middle, huddle-style, and chant “Keep hope alive!” Every time.
I have become leery of the evangelists of hope, and I don’t believe Dr King was one of them.
Through these decades of experience teaching thousands of young people and adults about community engagement I’ve come to understand that hope IS a panacea to despair. It serves a role in the hearts of those who’ve given up, and it’s essential for invigorating the hearts and minds of the disconnected.
However, for those who are capable, hope can be a conundrum that presents a roadblock to genuine change. Hope can be a placebo for those who believe change must happen. It salves our restless hearts and codifies our belief that someday, some thing will be different.
The dilemma of hope is that it can suffocate the imagination with it’s best intentions. Absent the component of critical thinking, hope becomes a drug that’s capable of hooking the masses, reeling them into the danger of just needing another fix. Hope is addictive.
The solution for this is to activate hope through practical, powerful, and positive action. Each of us must take responsibility everyday in every way we possibly can. This can happen at home, in school, during our afterschool hours, and all the time. But it must happen. We must confront the complacency hope sells us.
From there real social change can and will happen. But we must start by challenging the assumption that hope is enough, and for you and me, it will never be. Let’s get to work!
Thanks to Reyhan Reid for the comment that brought forth this piece. It’s good to get inspired!