“I do believe that most men live lives of quiet desperation. For despair, optimism is the only practical solution. Hope is practical. Because eliminate that and it’s pretty scary. Hope at least gives you the option of living.” ~ Harry Nilson
If you had asked me to describe Hope one week ago, I might have described a Little House on the Prairie –style scene; a young girl struggling to find her way through a snowstorm, who suddenly spots the golden glow of a candle in the distance. Hope would be that last bit of energy that keeps the girl going until she makes it to the warmth and welcome of her family home. Once spotted, the metaphorical candle in the storm would grow ever brighter, sharing spiritual warmth even before the source of the physical warmth was reached.
After a week of encounters with corruption, bribery, disrespect, patronising lies and indecipherable political webs, I feel better acquainted with the realities of both the storm and the candle. The storm is more overwhelming than I ever imagined. The candle is smaller and harder to find than expected. In fact, half the time I was quite certain that the candle was a hallucination and that the storm was inescapable.
The AVC team had a few moments in the past week where there was literally nothing left to do but hope. In those moments I became aware of how desperate and deluded Hope feels when there is nothing else to depend on. Hope is the last thing that holds us back from giving up completely and sinking into despair, even when our rational minds know that failure is the most likely outcome. Hope alone is not pleasant and warm and glowing.
Ok, now I’m gonna drop this tired snowstorm-candle-thingy and get to the point: Maybe this week I got a glimpse of what extreme poverty feels like. For a few days I was forced to feel what it’s like when the systems you are meant to trust and rely upon are actually working to exploit you, and you are left with no good choices. Every option costs more than you can afford, and so each decision becomes a pricey gamble. All that’s left is to pick the least-bad option and Hope that it won’t ruin you. But Hope still barely restrains the lingering, inescapable fear that things might never get better and you might be stuck in this place forever.
To rely upon this desperate form of Hope is exhausting and demoralising. It’s not fair that this might be the only kind of hope that some people have ever known.