Once again it is that time of year (Christmas) when we think about gift giving. Holiday decorations, joyful music, and smiling faces create an atmosphere of happiness. But hidden from view are the poor, lonely, sick, homeless, unemployed, and disabled who find the season only increases their suffering. For when those in need witness the happiness of others, it feels like salt is being poured into their wounds.
So, as we have thoughts of gifts, let's consider giving away one of the most valuable to everyone we meet. The gift I'm referring to is HOPE. It is a priceless treasure that we all need, but one that is especially valuable for the less fortunate. For those who are filled with hope can remain cheerful even in the most desperate of circumstances. All who give hope to others are heeding the call to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, and to give sustenance to the weak. When we offer hope to others, we empower them. How much more can those who silently suffer take? With hope in their hearts, a great deal more.
I'm sure you agree with Anne Frank  who wrote in her diary, "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." No, we need not wait for Christmas, or any other day, to give away the gift of hope. And when we do so, we are performing a valuable service, for hope and patience are two cures for all that ails us.
Before continuing, let me define hope. It is the feeling that we will eventually get what we want or need or that in the long run everything will turn out for the best, even if the final outcome is not what we want at this time. Hope requires faith and trust in life, oneself, and others, and is the opposite of fear, anxiety, and despair. It also leads to positive expectations.
What do you believe the future holds in store for you? Do you expect it to be bright or gloomy? Regardless of your expectation, you may be right or you may be wrong. Since you cannot predict the future, you can only take a guess. Although we cannot know the future, we can predict the outcome of your guess. For if you believe your future will be gloomy, you will become anxious, unhappy, and less motivated. On the other hand, if you expect a bright future, you will be confident, enthusiastic, and happy.
As we cannot predict the future, we can only guess at the outcome. And that guess is a choice we make. Choosing to be hopeful is practical because it will free us of unnecessary suffering. And even if our guess turns out to be wrong and disaster strikes, we will be much better prepared to deal with it. For those who expect a tragedy grow so weary that by the time it comes they are completely drained of energy and incapable of taking constructive action.
To deliberately choose despair over hope is foolhardy. Moreover, hope not only makes our journey much more pleasant, but may even guarantee our success. Especially when it is combined with action. That is, besides expecting a successful outcome, do everything in your power to make it happen and look for evidence that you are approaching your goal. At the same time, stop doing whatever is counterproductive. When you combine the power of hope with that of action, you will have good reason to H.ave O.nly P.ositive E.xpectations (H.O.P.E.).
Before we can give hope to others, we have to have it ourselves. And in order to impress you with the importance of cultivating it, let me share two quotes:
"The men whom I have seen succeed best in life always have been cheerful and hopeful men; who went about their business with a smile on their faces; and took the changes and chances of this mortal life like men; facing rough and smooth alike as it came." (Charles Kingsley )
"Men and women are limited not by the place of their birth, not by the color of their skin, but by the size of their hope." (John H. Johnson )
1. Hope and self-esteem. Hope is closely linked with self-esteem because the two pillars of self-esteem are belief in one's ability to cope with the challenges of life and that one deserves success. We boost our capacity for hope whenever we improve our self-esteem. To learn how to do so, read this excellent guidebook, Restore Your Magnificence: A Life-Changing Guide to Reclaiming Your Self-Esteem by Dr. Joe Rubino, Vision Works Publishing, 2003.
2. Support Groups. If you are finding it difficult to cope with mental or physical health problems, the death of a loved one, or any catastrophe, you can find hope in support groups. If there aren't any in your area, or you cannot attend one, try an online support group. Two examples are: http://www.dailystrength.org/support-groups
3. Self-Study. For an uplifting book on hope, read, Cultivating Hope: Weekly Readings to Open Your Heart and Mind by Karen Casey, Hazelden Publishing, 2009.
And before you give up hope, check your library, a bookstore, or the Internet for the inspiring biographies of countless men and women who relentlessly pursued their dreams in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles and went on to become victorious.
4. Inspiring Videos. Feed your spirit with inspirational videos. For example, visit here.
5. Direct your attention on the positive. Focus on what you can do, not what you can't do. Dwell on your hopes, not your hurts.
6. Open your heart and release your love. When you do so, you offer others hope. This video may inspire you:http://www.thepoweroflovemovie.com/
Also, keep in mind this Alcoholics Anonymous acronym for HOPE: H.eart O.pen P.lease E.nter. Steve Allen's  words, too, are worth remembering, "Human nature has grounds for hope, because love, in a sense, is inexhaustible."
1. Don't be afraid to dare to dream. But it may be wise to balance your dream with realism. For example, if you are a talented writer and a horrible singer, it doesn't mean you cannot learn how to sing. But if you worked on the talent you already have, you may develop into a great writer. Whereas if you focus on singing, you may become a mediocre singer at best. Here's how Joseph Addison  put it, "If we hope for what we are not likely to possess, we act and think in vain and make life a greater dream and shadow than it really is."
2. Living with hope is not about living with vapid wishes. Rather it is living with confidence in the future because one is already doing everything possible to make success a likely outcome.
3. Be hopeful, but don't be unprepared for a temporary defeat. That is, "Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst." (English Proverb) And "Hope for a miracle, but don't depend on one." (The Talmud )
4. Do you remember the pain you suffered in the past that you now look back on as "the good old days"? Hope is remembering that all problems pass. In other words, it is the recognition that all 'failures' are temporary setbacks and patience is called for. Here are how two others expressed this idea:
"Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged men who kept on working." (Hermione Granger )
"Hope is the feeling you have that the feeling you have isn't permanent." (Jean Kerr )
5. Hope is an emotional fire, a catalyst.
"Hope is a vigorous principle... it sets the head and heart to work, and animates a man to do his utmost." (Jeremy Collier )
"Hope arouses, as nothing else can arouse, a passion for the possible." (William Sloan Coffin )
6. When you set sail, you unfurl more than one sail, likewise set many goals and have multiple expectations.
7. "Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out." (Vaclav Havel )
8. "The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof." (Barbara Kingsolver )
9. Because of the knowledge of our mortality, courage and hope are necessary for a fulfilling life.
10. "Hope works in these ways: it looks for the good in people instead of harping on the worst; it discovers what can be done instead of grumbling about what cannot; it regards problems, large or small, as opportunities; it pushes ahead when it would be easy to quit; it "lights the candle" instead of "cursing the darkness." (Author Unknown)
Returning to the idea of giving the gift of hope, what type of hope shall we give? How about giving others hope in their own inner strength? It's like teaching a man to fish so he can feed himself for a lifetime rather than feeding him a fish for a day or two.
What are your hopes? Mine include to laugh as much as I get angry, to dream as much as I plan, to give to life as much as I receive, to trust more than I doubt, to do more than I dare, and to love more than I am presently able. I am sure you can add to the list.
Let's also remember that when we give H.O.P.E., we:
H.elp O.ther P.eople E.xcel
H.elp O.ther P.eople E.veryday
H.eal O.ther P.eople E.verywhere
H.elp O.pen P.eople's E.yes
"Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible." (Charles Caleb Colton )
"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope." (Martin Luther King Jr. )
"He who has health, has hope. And he who has hope, has everything." (Arabian Proverb)
For more articles on hope, see:
 Anne Frank (1929~1945, German Jewish refugee, diarist)
 Charles Kingsley (1819~1875, British author, clergyman)
 John H. Johnson (1918~2005, One of America's most successful and wealthiest entrepreneurs. Ebony, his flagship publication, is the nation's number one African American-focused magazine with a monthly readership of over 10 million. In 1982, he became the first African American to be named one of the 400 richest people in America by Forbes magazine. In 1996, President Bill Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the nation.)
 Steve Allen (1921~2000, American television personality, musician, actor, comedian, and writer)
 Joseph Addison (1672~1719, British essayist, poet, statesman)
 The Talmud (BC 500?~400? AD, Jewish archive of oral tradition)
 Hermione Granger (A fictional character in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series)
 Jean Kerr (1922~2003, American author and playwright )
Jeremy Collier (1650~1726, English theatre critic and theologian)
 William Sloan Coffin (1924~2006, American liberal Christian clergyman and long-time peace activist)
 Vaclav Havel (Born in 1936, Czech playwright, essayist, dissident and politician. He was the tenth and last President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic).
Barbara Kingsolver (born in 1955, American novelist, essayist, and poet)
 Charles Caleb Colton (1780~1832, English cleric and writer)
 Martin Luther King Jr. (1929~1968, American Civil Rights leader, 1964 Nobel Prize winner)