Choosing Hope: An Open Letter
To the man reading “Choosing Hope” in front of me on the bus,
Thank you for holding it up high. I’m not sure if you intended for me to read it too, but the bold header of “Choosing Hope” is a reminder that is impossible to exhaust. I can’t decipher the body of the text, so I wonder if it talks about how hopelessness is a warm bed that is much easier to slip into than choosing hope. How hope is a mountain that offers a trivial climb if you choose to do so. Anyone who’s ever climbed a mountain knows that the view, which spans for miles, cannot be rivalled by even the highest thread count. Still, the view from the valley gets comfortable, and my blankets get warmer the longer I lay here, so thank you for urging me to keep stepping. Eyes up. Arms up, like you at this moment.
It’s an interesting way to read a book, I must say. Putting these words on display for all of this outbound 67 to see. A public communion. A billboard for the mundane, or what should be, but isn’t. So many of us need this reminder to choose hope. To choose a perception that grants us a glimpse of the best that people have to offer. Giving the ones around us the benefit of the doubt.
That’s an interesting phrase, “the benefit of the doubt”. Between you and me, that’s a phrase that I’ve often used but seldom thought deeply about. Adults use that phrase in the most endearing of contexts, so it must be applicable to most situations, right? And while I’m being honest, I Googled it for the first time about 4 minutes ago. And Google did what Google so often does: enlightened me, and then got me thinking some more. What beautiful meaning lies within those five words. They roll off the tongue so quickly that I rarely pick them apart, see them for what they are as individuals. I hear the rhythmic syllables as easily as I say them. But now, I am taking the time to really think about what it means to hold doubt accountable for all of the damage it causes.
“She does not value me.”
“She’s constantly falling short.”
Isn’t it better to let hope guide our thinking? Isn’t it better to want there to be as much goodness in others as we see in ourselves?
“She’s trying to figure out how to value herself.”
“She’s trying to find solid ground.”
What would happen to the world if we all leaned into hope more than doubt? If we trusted that every interpreted action had good intentions behind it? I hope that the people I surround myself with are kind hearted and harmless to all benevolence. I hope that when my friends talk about me when I am not around, they speak my name through a smile. They’d be benefiting me greatly, pushing aside any inklings of my flaws. Not dismissing them--because everyone missteps--but reserving room for my goodness to fill my complexion. I am more than my mistakes, we all are. I like closing my eyes under a gentle wash of sunlight. I like holding the door open for strangers, and I love listening to what others think of the world. I am more than my mistakes, we all are.
With all of that said, let me ask you this. How silly would it be to not give me the benefit of the doubt? To give anyone the benefit of the doubt? The single mother trying to calm her crying baby on the overbooked airplane. The old man driving slowly because his daughter just bought a new house. How can we not hope that they all mean well in this world? How can we know that they don’t?
I am grateful for your devotion. I am not sure where you are heading, but I hope it pours goodness into the spaces that make you whole. I know that there aren’t many mountains in Pittsburgh--none that this outbound 67 can take you to, anyway--but I can judge from your reading material that you’d appreciate my encouragement to keep climbing. Even though you’ve only stared at this particular page for the full 6 minutes I’ve sat on this bus, I hope the words are enriching from cover to cover. I hope you finally reach the top.