Too many people live without hope

Monday, August 23, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:09 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Considering the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Charley across Florida, I’ve dropped my complaints about the inclement weather that has visited Missouri over the past weeks. All and all, with the continuing war in Iraq, the fluctuating economy and the distasteful political environment, it really has not been a fun summer, even at a personal level. Maybe there really is something in the air as one of my neighbors claims. Whatever it is, I hope it goes away peacefully.

I have always been grateful for the fact that I have a busy schedule, but never more so than over the past few weeks. When you love your work, it makes for a great place to escape when you find yourself constantly encountering things over which you have no control.

What do you say, for example, to people who can’t afford their prescription drugs? Of course, I’d like to reassure them that something is going to be done to make things easier for them. But I don’t know that anything ever will. And what about older people who live alone and in constant fear every day of a terrorist attack. Can anyone tell them it won’t happen?

And this, I think, is one of the biggest problems we face in America right now. So many seem to believe that nothing will ever get better, and they are confined to living on the edge of their worst fears. We need to find a way to restore hope. We need to have people who are in the field of mental health speaking out everywhere, trying to help their fellow beings who are caught in the midst of a national media and political arena that thrives on tales of death and destruction.

A lot of folks are seeking directions to the road that leads to the kind of mental well-being that allows them to live with their fears while at the same time leading hopeful and productive lives. Because let’s face it, all of their fears are not groundless.

Certainly, there are many helpful books waiting on library shelves. But there are so many people nowadays who are not inclined to search the printed word. They tend to want to deal with the electronic media, which is being driven by popular culture and often suggests that the only way to enjoy a good life is to have more relationships and better sex.

Or, there are the people selling religion. This is where you plant financial seeds and your life will suddenly turn around and you will be showered with eternal blessings. And certainly, there has never been a better climate than this to infuse these kinds of suggestions into the dialogue.

Motivational speakers who take their work seriously should realize there is a serious void in the marketplace these days in the area of helping people overcome the sense of hopelessness that has invaded our creative spaces. As difficult as it is to ever face catastrophic illnesses, family losses, long-term unemployment and the myriad of other traumas that we all are heir to, it is so much worse when a person’s support system is in a state of perpetual collapse because hope is unable to survive amid torrents of despair.

In almost every context lately, I keep hearing myself repeat the same thing. Nothing is going to get any better unless we make it better. Those of us who accept the latest report from the Census bureau that the wealthiest 20 percent of the population accounted for 50 percent of total U.S. income in 2002 and the rest of the people’s income fell understand that if we want to support ourselves and our families in an adequate manner, we have our work cut out for us.

In every generation, a few people figure out that it will only be through a change in their personal lifestyle that they will ever experience the true joy of living. (Though returning to basics is not only not feasible these days, it is in some ways impossible.)

Still, there are people who opt for a simpler way of life. Some folks are still growing and preserving their own foods. Some are still making their own clothes.

Now, there are those who think alternative lifestyles are weird and flaky. Actually, some of the happiest, most well-adjusted people I know are people who after having made every effort to survive in a traditional lifestyle, gathered their families, threw up their hands and walked away.

Can there be such a thing as too much bad news? I think so, when there is no sincere effort to balance it with the good. And it really is harmful to a lot of people. I find myself constantly recommending that older people turn off the television set when they find the news too upsetting.

People, of course, can exist without hope. But would you want such a person performing surgery on your child or piloting your airplane? I suspect, in too many cases, they already are.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen

by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her


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