I found a water bottle on the beach last week. There wasn’t anything unusual about that. Every time I go to the beach, I pick up several empty beverage containers, many of which are discarded single-use plastic water bottles.
Often, someone has left an empty bottle in the sand among other scattered pieces of litter. Sometimes, I discover a plastic bottle bobbing in the surf. Occasionally, I come upon one that was left perched on the stone ledge carved by nature along the base of the cliffs where I walk.
This particular bottle was wrapped in a strand of kelp and was leaning against a mossy green rock. Its label faced up, boldly stating, “Fitness is hope….”
As I read the label, I became curious about the type of person who would leave the bottle behind. Did he or she actually find hope in fitness? My thoughts quickly turned to my own sense of hope. I began to wonder why the act of picking up other people’s litter doesn’t discourage and depress me. Why does it make me feel hopeful?
I found a definition of hope that explains it. Dr. Shane Lopez, who researches hope, states that it is “the belief that the future will be better than the present, along with the belief that you have the power to make it so.”
Another hope researcher, Jennifer Cheavens explains that hope is more than wishful thinking. “Hope has two components: a map or pathway to get what you want and the motivation and strength to follow that path.”
When I pick up litter left on the beach, I do not focus on what is wrong. I resist becoming angry at those who litter. I don’t get upset with manufacturers of plastic containers, and I don’t scowl at the beverage industry.
I find hope in the inspiration that my sister and her husband provide through the art that they make with the plastic they collect from Kehoe Beach in Marin County, California. (www.beachplastic.com). I also find hope in Litterati and those who are “cleaning the planet one piece of litter at a time.” My hope comes from knowing that I am part of a worldwide community that cares about the environment. My hope grows even stronger when I take action and become part of the solution.
Hope is helping others overcome…
A few years ago, I discovered a picture book by Lauren Thompson called Hope is an Open Heart. The book was written in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.
As the author tried to find a way to explain the tragedy to her young son, she focused on hope. Written in metaphors, the book couples poetic language with powerful photographic images of children from around the world.
Hope is the warmth of strong arms around you.
Hope is sad tears flowing, making room for joy.
Hope is angry words bursting, making room for understanding.
Hope is a heart that is open to the world all around you.
Hope is knowing that things can change—
and that we can help things to change for the better.
I used the book as a mentor text and was amazed by the writing that the struggling students in my 4th grade reading intervention group did in response.
One student, who lost his older brother to a drive-by shooting, wrote:
Another, who struggled with ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder and was filled with rage, shared:
Many of the students who attend the school where I work exist in seemingly hopeless situations. They have to deal with abuse, drugs, and gang violence in their daily lives, but they are still able to express hope in their writing.
Cheavens believes that hope can be taught if we “build on the strengths people have and teach them how to develop those strengths. We need to focus not on what is wrong but on ways to help people live up to their potential.” As educators, we must find ways to help our students live up to their potential.
Hope is essential to learning and life. How can we help our students find their own reasons to have hope? We need to believe in them, and we must help them learn to believe in themselves.