My Hope for You

By Katarina Graves

“Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal… To hope is to give yourself to the future – and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.”

― Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark

Personally, I’ve never liked Emily Dickinson’s poem about hope. You probably know the one, because somewhere along the way an English teacher force fed it to you in an attempt to educate you on Poetry We (they) Have Decided is Important.

In case you managed to miss that class, it’s the one where “Hope is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul.” And I don’t like it because hope is something much sturdier than that, it has to be.

At least that’s what we heard last Tuesday, October 17 – on the United Nations’ International Day to Eradicate Poverty – when members of Poverty Talks! (one of Vibrant Communities Calgary’s advisory committees) and the public performed original spoken word pieces on the theme of ‘hope.’

In time, most of us are ravaged by a twist of fate or dealt a crushing blow that leaves us reeling or winded. Perhaps it wasn’t poverty, but marginalization, racism, sexism, or any of the other myriad forms of violence this sometimes cruel, sometimes capricious world is capable of inflicting – and perhaps it diminished, or even decimated, your ability to hope.

So, to hear from those that our world has done its level best to hurt, that hope endures – albeit imperfectly and incompletely – was a moving testament to the resilience that sentiment can create. A resilience which, in a society that refuses time and again to face up to the persistent inequality that robs it of the invisible wealth of never-reached human potential, is so much more than necessary.

“Keeping up with the status quo is expensive, don’t you think?” Tracy-Ray Lewis admonished. Indeed, it is.

If you weren’t able to be there, to hear for yourself the words of some of those for whom the eradication of poverty means the most, my hope for you is that you take comfort in the knowledge that, though you may have been a witness to or a victim of cruelty and capriciousness like them, you don’t have to believe that your world is permanently misshapen, irrevocably torn. None of us have complete control over the circumstances that shape our lives, but we do have the agency (to allow ourselves) to hope. We can set the tone of our narrative.

We can also take a cue from these activists, and artists, and use our voice to tell stories that matter in the hope that those stories will be heard by people who have the capacity and courage to contribute not only to the project of ending poverty, but to the betterment of our society as a whole.

But, as Susan Gwynn warned, “Hope will give you no peace!” – and it shouldn’t, should it? It’s there to stir you, not to still you.


Katarina Graves is an Engagement and Administrative Assistant at Vibrant Communities Calgary. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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