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Stray Kernels – Searching for Hope

Merriam-Webster.com describes hope as a verb: “to cherish a desire with anticipation; to want something to happen or be true,” and as a noun: “desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment.”

Hope can be something you do—“I hope we have a better growing season in 2020,” or something you have—“The successful surgery gives me hope.”

As a verb, hoping is similar to wishing. As a noun, hope is similar to faith—it’s a thing you have, you’re seeking, or you’ve given up on finding.

It’s been a rough year, and hope has been hard to find.

If you farm, that’s probably an understatement. What with extreme weather, trade wars, low commodity prices and more, it’s been a year of setbacks and disappointments. The phrase “2019 can’t end soon enough” appears often in the agricultural corners of social media.

Each time I hear someone expressing hope for a better year in 2020, I struggle to stifle a cynical thought: “What makes you think next year will be any better?”

I don’t farm, nor does my immediate family. Nonetheless, this year’s goofed-up growing season has made me edgy. Nothing seems “right”—not the barren farm ground I pass each day, not the still-standing water in fields, and especially not the soggy standing cornstalks still waiting for harvest in December.

If the rotten growing season has a non-farmer like me feeling uneasy, I can’t imagine how someone whose livelihood depends on farming must feel right now.

“Maybe you should not have bought the new tractor with the GPS and just kept the old one with a gear stick and no push buttons…lol.”

This was a comment I recently saw online—from a farmer—in response to an article titled “10 Signs of a Farmer Suffering Financial Stress.” Well, then. If you were looking for signs of hope, this wouldn’t be it.

But you don’t have to work in ag to be feeling anxious. On top of our normal array of personal challenges like parenting, illness, and work stress, the weight of every day’s news adds more to our burdens. Where’s the hope in all of that?

Hope has been such a struggle that I’ve questioned my choice to write about it.

The thing is, everyone has a different way of finding hope. And it’s when we’re feeling the most hopeless that unasked-for advice, sappy sentiments, or empty encouragement can be most irritating. What works for some people doesn’t resonate with others.

But all I’ve got is my own experience to go on. So for what it’s worth, here are a few ways I’m finding my hope:

Music – I keep rediscovering the power music has to improve how I feel. If I’m tense or discouraged, switching my car radio from news to music I love lifts my mood and revives my hope. Ditto for singing along to music while cooking, doing laundry, or in the church choir.

Therapy – So great is the unspoken taboo around this topic that it took me several days to decide whether to actually mention it. Then I realized it would be dishonest not to. Those weekly visits help me to see life from a different perspective and identify hope-stealing habits of thought and emotion.

I had to push myself to identify things that allow me to hang onto hope. Music and therapy are just two. Others include making my daughter giggle, walking with a friend, spending time in nature, and long hugs from my hubby.

If you’re feeling hopeless or discouraged, feel free to reach out to me. I don’t have it all figured out, but maybe we can work on it together.

RHODORA COLLINS – AG LITERACY COORDINATOR