A Gift of Hope

I just finished the college tour with my 18-year-old daughter. Over the past year we visited several college campuses in an attempt to get “the best feel” for what university was the best fit. Put the travel expenses aside. Forget the endless walking tours, tired feet, and over exuberant, walking backwards tour guides. The bottom line was I was able to spend scores of hours talking with my daughter about friendships, politics and life. As we discussed what the future had in store for her and her wish for a better tomorrow, I could not help myself from reflecting back to when I was 18 and how the world has drastically changed!

In 1972, I was attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Our country was invading Cambodia. We were marching on State Street in protest to the war and my dormitory was pelted with smoke bombs. A Ph.D. was no guarantee for employment. Gas prices were skyrocketing. Environmentalism became vogue. Drugs, sex and rock ‘n roll pervaded the campus scene.

In 2004 my daughter lives in a world rampant with global terrorism. She witnesses her country divided on the issues of war and peace. Health care costs, staggering unemployment, and outsourcing of jobs is threatening the economic security of every family. She communicates wirelessly and effortlessly where immediacy and virtual realities are the norm. Her peers are being diagnosed with mental illness and being medicated with psychiatric medicines at record levels.

Just as I was thinking how much the world has changed, I began to realize the ambiguity of time- how much the world order continually changes and how the hopes and inner will of people remain virtually the same.

This past weekend my daughter and I were attending the University of California- Santa Barbara spring welcome for prospective students in fall of 2004. We were listening to the University chancellor, along with 800 other parents and young adults, boast of the school’s three recent Nobel prize winners when suddenly a female student came bursting down the aisle, nude and proudly yelling “I love Santa Barbara.” Like a staged act, the shocked audience laughed nervously and the chancellor continued his speech. The woman next to me leaned over and whispered, “I am sure all the parents are making their decision right now!” I leaned back to her and quipped, “I am sure all the kids are making their decision right now. It’s probably just a different one.” Oh, how the world has changed and not changed! I couldn’t refrain from telling my daughter how streaking ruled the days back when I was in school. In fact, the streaking student resonated with me and I paradoxically felt hope that, despite the troubling world condition my daughter already had an amusing college story to tell.

One essential ingredient to becoming and being a good parent is to be the purveyor of hope in our society. One cannot be a parent without a sense of hope. We must challenge our children to make the world a better place. It is the parent’s job to inject hope and inner strength into their children. What does hope look like? How does a parent instill hope? When does a child experience hope?

  • HOPE grows out of being listened to, acknowledged and valued.
  • HOPE grows out of feeling accepted and understood.
  • HOPE grows out of being treated with respect.
  • HOPE grows out of being given genuine and specific praise.
  • HOPE grows out of honesty.
  • HOPE grows out of being given responsibilities.
  • HOPE grows out of learning to cope with failures.
  • HOPE grows out of being involved in problem solving.
  • HOPE grows out of witnessing role models.
  • HOPE grows out of being given the freedom and independence to make choices.

The world of today is not the same as yesterday’s. Yet, patterns emerge which help us explain the daily events we experience. Hope is one common denominator in life that parents must offer their children. As my daughter makes her decision about which college she plans to attend this fall and prepares to experience the world away from the security of home, the best I can do for her is hope that I have given her the gift of hope.