Hope in uncertain times

“The very least you can do in your life is 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, Animal Dreams

The world we know has become more fragile. We are in the fluxes of grief, loss of loved ones, uncertain futures, lands that are meant to be free, unmet imaginings.

I met with a young person this week who travelled alone from their home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. She, like many others, had hoped to find a safer and brighter future in South Africa. Etching out a life for themselves here, finishing school, attempting to make friends and finding a home in a place that told them they are unwelcome. The wishes they had have been met with loss. The inability to live out the hopes they have for their life. This young person would like to return to a place once known as home and now foreign. To live out a new future as the one imagined has not come into being.

This is a common story. I could offer little recourse as the process of repatriation or resettlement is abating. I know too well that the wheels of justice turn slowly and unequally to give this person something to hold onto in the coming days and weeks.

As I sat silently in my office, I tried to imagine what needed to change to give solace to this young person. I knew I could not change this one person’s life by wishing away all that has obstructed her. I can, however, continue to commit myself to live and create a future that would allow fulfilment for the many who have this shared story.

Karen Armstrong, in her book A Short History of Myth provides an insightful understanding of mythology and, in this case, hope:

“Human beings fall easily into despair, and from the very beginning we invented stories that enabled us to place our lives in a larger setting, that revealed an underlying pattern, and gave us a sense that . . . life had meaning and value. . . . [Hope] is not about opting out of this world, but about enabling us to live more intensely within it.”

How might we live more intensely in this world to create the shared futures we hope for?

Abigail Dawson

Abigail Dawson holds a Masters in Development Studies, Sociology, from the University of Witwatersrand. Her activist and academic interests have focused on migration in a South African context. She is a qualified social worker and has provided counselling for migrant women and children. She hopes to bring change to the current public and global narrative on migration through effective and creative communication, networking and advocacy to ensure equitable communities for all people living in South Africa.

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