My Favorite Weapon
by Sara King
When you are faced with a challenge, what is the underlying force moving you forward? When you are given a new opportunity, what is it that makes it so exciting? I would argue that this thing, which moves us and gives us momentum, is hope.
I am a recent graduate with a degree in public health. And while smoking and tobacco use are big issues and produce some pretty negative outcomes, I would say hope is one of the most significant pieces of how and why we live and act as we do. Hope influences our physical and mental well being more powerfully than we realize.
Think about it. Hope is powerful, forceful. Think of where you are right now and of all the opportunities that have propelled you forward, all the supporters who have cheered you on. All along, these open doors and loving people have been helping to build up hope within you. Now, imagine instead living in a culture or condition in which others fight against you and opportunities are hidden from you or are inaccessible to you solely because of how you look, what your gender is, or how much money is in your pocket. Imagine that in this place, instead of being read the “Little Engine That Could” at bedtime, even the ones you love most believe your dreams to be meaningless impossibilities.
When we engage in conversations about disparities, protests, revolutions, or dreams a common argument is that if someone wants "better" desperately enough, they can work for it, they can strive for it, and they can accomplish it. This may be true, but I think we forget how much of a privilege it is to be a people who are taught and encouraged to hope and dream. I think it would be to each of our benefits to step back and realize the people who we are expecting positive change from are in situations or conditions that hinder their hope and hinder the scope of what is possible. Their difficulties are not typically sustained out of choice, but rather the normalcy of not being able to see or breathe beyond the immediacy of the present need, the task at hand, or the lack of support.
We all have moments when it feels like the whole world is against us. In those moments, our perception of what's possible becomes hindered and our steps forward are hesitant, unsteady, or even regressive.
So, beloved friend, while we can't change everything bad about the world, we can be agents of change in the way we share hope.
Dare I say we become people who are mindful of our encouragements to one another? That we walk hand-in-hand with our brothers and sisters to find a way over, under, or through obstacles? That we would remove the subconscious separation we feel in our hearts towards fellow human beings because they look or believe a certain way? That we would be intentional about inviting our friends into dreaming and hoping with us in a way that encourages them to pursue dreams?
I think this is an area where I have been given significant deposits of hope from friends and family and an area where I fall short in reciprocating hope-filled support. I have come up with ideas to implement in my life to further ignite hope within my sphere of influence and open my perspective of what hope looks like in lives different than mine. You're welcome to join me:
1. Instead of shying away from the hot topics of the day, I want to engage in conversations where I make it a point of empathizing with oppressed people, imagining the maze they have to journey through to arrive at some type of positive progress.
2. I want to support the dreams of my friends and family, even if it's only with my blessing in this stage of their journey. To support the dreams of my friends and family when they've tried but failed. Hold back judgment, hold back "I told you so," and celebrate their attempt wholeheartedly.
3. Think about and discuss the discrimination I sustain in my own heart, either towards myself or others, that hinders vision, dreams, or confidence in what I can do or my friends can do. Bring it to light and let the denial cease. For instance, I should probably talk through how I already feel like my career dreams are stunted because I'm a woman living in, what feels like, a man's world.
4. Strategically write down my dreams including the possible obstacles, the resources needed to accomplish them, and who I know that could “help a sistah out”...then show them off. A hidden dream can be easily avoided and accountability is a valuable thing.
5. Identify or recognize that others' dreams and goals may look and sound different than mine, but that doesn't make them any less of a dream or goal. Respect the dreams of others and engage kindly with them.