Eva Kor is a Holocaust survivor. When she was 10, she and her twin sister were used in medical experiments by a doctor in Auschwitz. Eva was injected with a deadly germ, and when the doctor saw how sick she was, he laughingly said, “Too bad, she’s so young – she has only two weeks to live.” Eva knew she was very sick, but she made a vow to herself that she would survive, prove the doctor wrong, and be reunited with her sister Miriam.
Auschwitz certainly seems like a hopeless place but, during the next five weeks, as Eva faded in and out of consciousness, she reminded herself that she was going to get well and see her sister. All she could control was crawling to a source of water and crawling back to bed again. But she never stopped hoping. Slowly she improved, and finally she was released to return to her barracks, and to Miriam. Deep inside she knew that if she could survive that, she could survive anything. The experience gave her confidence in her ability to overcome difficulties, and she continues to use that skill to be ready for whatever the next life challenge might be.
In her adult life she became a forgiveness advocate and shared her story with many people. When people began to give Eva feedback on how her story helped them, she realized the power of hope-filled stories. When we share how we’ve overcome our cancer, divorce, financial debt, job loss, depression, or the passing of a loved one, others begin to believe they can too. This is hope in action. As Virginia Satir writes, “Life is not the way it’s supposed to be, it’s the way it is. The way you cope is what makes the difference.”
Whatever else may be going on in our life, we’re all affected by Covid. Just like Eva, we build hope when we focus on what we can control. That means putting all of our attention on what is in our power to change. We build hope when we stay positive. That doesn’t mean we don’t get discouraged or shed a few tears — it means we move forward by picking up the pieces and making needed changes. Learning from a difficult time means our actions are affected, so we don’t stay in a hard place any longer than necessary.
Hope comes from taking any opportunity there is to actively improve our situation. For perspective we may need to step back and look at the big picture so we notice all the details of our challenge and clearly see our options. Barack Obama offers this advice: “The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”
Hope takes time to see what there is to be grateful for at the end of each day. This is a good time to acknowledge how far we’ve come and give ourselves credit for doing the best we know how to do. When we’re kind to our self, we’re practicing hope. It’s gentle self-care that helps us survive tough times, so let’s engage our bodies and minds in meaningful nurturing.
Hope finds a light no matter how dark it is, and sometimes that light comes from our community. Surrounding ourselves with people who are loving, honest, and supportive makes any difficult situation bearable. Steve Goodier sums this up well when he writes, “Who do you spend time with? Criticizers or encouragers? Surround yourself with those who believe in you. Your life is too important for anything less.”
Whatever the source or form of our tough time, it is essential to our wellbeing to practice forgiveness. This is what made the difference for Eva, and this is the foundation of hope. Our first reaction to any tough event may be anger and blame, but staying there will make the situation worse. To move forward, we need to stop obsessive thinking about the situation, release our judgements, and forgive whoever is involved. Sometimes that person is our self. If the problem we’re facing is the direct result of something we’ve done, it’s easy to become destructively self-critical. Self-forgiveness is just as essential as forgiveness of anyone else!
Eva Kor is a dramatic example of someone who took a horrendous situation and, through hope and determination, turned it into skills for her life that she has passed on to others. Challenges are inevitable, but we decide if we’re going to learn something from the experience. As Eva discovered, the joy of learning is being able to share our story and discover it has helped someone else. As we continue to navigate Covid, let’s share our stories of what we are learning and how we are building hope. As Emily Dickinson writes, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.” Wishing you a hope-filled day.
Until Next Time – Sylvia