Monday, March 15, 2010

Signs of Hope

Last Thursday, on my way into school, I came across a very unique sight: a man dressed in black pants, nice work shoes, a collared shirt, and a red sweater vest, washing his car. It was 8:38 am. My first thought was, what a hopeful thing to do.

I wondered if he had a job interview that day... or maybe a big date... or maybe he was taking his kids to school and was trying to impress the other dads with his sparkley black Beamer... maybe he was about to pick his girlfriend and ask her to marry him... maybe it was a birthday present for his 16 year old son... maybe he's a secret agent and just finished repainting the car and was washing off the excess (I obviously know nothing about painting cars... or being a secret agent).  Anyway, my imagination took off, writing the first few lines of a whole host of potential stories for this gentleman. As I walked, I realized the common theme among them being hope.

Inspired by the go-get-'em attitude I imagined for Mr. Red Sweater Vest, I decided to spend the next two days looking for signs of hope.

As a scientist, I had to first figure out exactly what it was that I was looking for, ie: what is the definition of hope, so I will know it when I see it. So I went to the Magical Interwebs ( Interestingly, hope is both a noun and a verb, and as I chose to use it, 'hopeful' an adjective, hopefully, an adverb. It's kind of like 'smurfy' for those of us who are children of the 80's (or parents of children of the 80's). That, in and of itself, was a nice, albeit tangential, metaphor for what I was looking for- hope is defined many different ways and takes on many different forms, depending on what you are looking for and how you want to use it.

Thursday, looking for signs of hope was really easy. It was a beautiful day outside. I had a good meeting with my supervisors. We put together an outline for the next few weeks, and promised to meet again. This was a hopeful activity, according to my definition- it showed that they are 'looking forward to with desire and reasonable confidence' (definition 1 of hope as a verb).  As I was walking home from work I passed the construction site of the new library the University is building- definitely a sign of hope. I walked past a local middle school and there were guys outside painting lines on a soggy field in the shape of a small running track- sign of hope. I ran into Mike and Opie on the way to the park, Opie about jumping out of his skin with hopefulness- petmeletsgototheparkandjumpinpuddlesiloveyoucanweeatpetmeiloveyou. To him, we are the 'person or thing in which expectations are centered' (definition 2 of hope as a noun). Later over dinner, Mike and I spoke of the future, as we often do, another implicit sign of hope. What will happen when we are done here, what do you want to do next, what's recorded on the DVR... I can go on, but I won't- suffice it to say, there were lots of signs of hope on Thursday.

Friday was not as pretty outside. It was fine, not warm or cold, gray, a bit of rain on and off. As I walked into school, I didn't see Mr. Red Sweater Vest. It was drizzling the entire walk, keeping my face and jacket covered with a nice sheen of damp. The things that I had seen as hopeful the day before now seemed a bit forlorn. They didn't look hopeful... they actually looked a bit... apathetic. They weren't filled with potential energy any more. They were stagnate. The field, so hopefully painted the day before, was submerged in a puddle-lake at one end. It seemed to say, yeah, thought you could do something with this. That was dumb. The huge crane at the building site was still, looking like it couldn't be bothered to move. It had exhausted itself with all its efforts of the previous day. Silly girl, thinking that there were symbols of hope all around. Really? I'm just a crane. A crappy, rusting, lopsided crane. When I got to work, everyone seemed to be stuck. It wasn't one of those excited Fridays were everyone counts down the minutes until 5, then goes for a beer after. It was a Friday when people come and go, with their heads down, trying to make sure no one notices when they duck out at 2.  I remembered my promise to find hope, thought of Mr. Red Sweater Vest, and it occurred to me that he could've been a cab driver, just coming off the late shift. What a difference a day makes.

It made me realize how much power I have over my outlook. When I actively engaged in looking for hope, I saw things that looked like hope. Perhaps it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.  When I kept my mind and eyes open, looking for the positive, I saw it. When I was a little weaker, waiting for hope to come to me, I didn't find it as readily. In fact, I saw the opposite. I saw mediocrity, satisfaction with the status quo. It really is in your perspective.

Later Friday afternoon, I had to go to a meeting about a new house that Mike and I viewed on Wednesday evening. I was meeting the landlord, trying to make sure she liked me, trusted me, wanted me (as a representative for our family) to live in her house. I felt like I was in middle school again, trying to sit at the cool lunch table. As it turned out, things went great. She was lovely. She liked me. We had tea, and we are now officially friends... maybe not friends, but at least owner and tenant. Talk about hope. It's good. And tomorrow's a new day.

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