“What’s your understanding of hope?” I ask, looking around the room expectantly. I can see the wheels turning. Every Thursday in my second-year English class, we take a break from the book and unpack various concepts. Once students have enough language under their belt to begin tackling deeper topics of conversation, class gets a bit more exciting. I absolutely love hearing their thoughts and perspectives, realizing there’s so much more they want to express but don’t quite know how to.
“Gather with your groups and write down some of your ideas,” I say, leaving the chalkboard open for brave group-members to fill up with thoughts. Here are some student responses:
Is looking forward to coming true.
Can contribute each people to make progress.
Is the future.
Is my soul.
Is important in our daily life, if you own hope you can do what you want to do.
I think hope is our power and arouse people.
Tibet is our hope, so we come to English class together! (??)
Wow. Good start, huh? We discuss a wonderful little parable (author unknown) that illustrates the idea of hope (complete with sound effects and charades). Here’s part of it…
Parable of the Old Mule
Once there was a farmer who owned an old mule. One day the mule fell into the farmer’s well and the farmer heard the mule ‘praying’ or whatever mules do when they fall into wells.
After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving. Instead, he called his neighbors together, told them what had happened and asked them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery.
Initially, the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back, a thought struck him. It dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back he could shake it off and step up! This he did, blow after blow. “Shake it off and step up…shake it off and step up…shake it off and step up!”
It wasn’t long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well! What seemed like it would bury him actually helped him…all because of the manner in which he handled his adversity.
Ah. Hope gets us out of the well. Wells come in many shapes and sizes, but all of them can feel dark and insurmountable. A big question towards the end of our class time together remains. What do you put your hope IN? Is it in money? There are so many things to spend our money on and none of it lasts. What about people? People are imperfect, they will let you down. What about yourself? I don’t know about you, but I seem to mess up more than I care to admit, SELF is the last place I want to put my hope in.
I proceed to tell the class about the one in which I find my hope, the one that can’t be seen but the one I know is there. Wind rustles through a tree out the window and I ask the class if they can see the branches move. Yes, they can. They can’t see the wind, but they see what it moves.
People’s lives all around me have been moved. I’ve seen hearts changed, old habits broken, personalities softened and HOPE restored to the hopeless. Tell me there isn’t a strong wind behind all that. What we choose to put our hope in makes all the difference. Shake it off and step up…upon the one who is a sure and steadfast foundation.