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The Spring of Hope

by Anne Udall

May 8,2009

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way….
- Charles Dickens

Dicken’s words run through my mind often these days. It truly is the best and the worst of times in our country – in a day, even in the space of a moment, I experience the sensation of joy and despair; fear and excitement; worry and relief. A rollercoaster ride every day. 

I have a job I love, doing work that matters with people that inspire me. It is spring in the Carolinas where over 70% of all the plant life in our state blooms – it seems like all at once on a single day. I recently returned from exploring Kenya and Tanzania for three weeks, and felt the awe of standing at Olduvai Gorge, where humans stood erect for the first time, realizing that we really are all brothers and sisters. I am in love with my dog, who greets me very day with complete and total abandon when I come home from work. Estudio espanol cada semana y hablo con la gente en restaurantes y tiendas todo el tiempo. Me gusta mucho! I have a bluebird in my bluebird house (finally, after 3 long empty years!) sitting on four eggs. My nephew is graduating from high school and I am thrilled to see him reach this benchmark. I laugh frequently and find much humor in the daily madness of our lives. I have wonderful friends and many, many heroes. 

People I love are losing their jobs, and I worry for them. Then, I worry for myself. Fear is a paralyzing emotion, and guilt even worse. Many philanthropists have lost the ability to help our community because of the recession. I see the social sector world struggling to provide the services that we count on in our region. I already miss the beautiful Wachovia logo, even as I still see the blue/green signs – a painful reminder of what we have lost. Our schools continue to struggle, and our leaders are having to make difficult choices. I shy away from reading newspapers or listening to news – the need to encourage discord; the desire to hype even the smallest of events; the failure to present issues in all their complexity—leaves me discouraged and angry. The density of our nation’s challenges – the two wars, the health care system, social security, economy, environment, education – can seem overwhelming. And now, swine flu. Please. 

I have been wondering lately if I experience Dickens’ ‘season of darkness’ when I allow myself to be overwhelmed by what I cannot do and forget to stay focused on what I can do. Stephen Covey once pointed out that concentrating on those things we cannot control (what he calls our circle of concern) can be a place of comfort, or even worse, a place of inactivity and stagnation. Covey goes on to say that within that huge circle of concern is a smaller circle of influence, where one can make a difference by the choices one makes. So, yes, I can worry about the fact that my friends don’t have employment. My worry does not help them; and nor does it help me. In other words, I need to figure out what I can do and do it. Therefore, I need to stay focused at my job, to make sure I work as hard as I can for my organization—which in turn can mean I stay employed and the folks who work with me stay employed. I can stop buying plastic water bottles and fill a very cool Sigg bottle with Charlotte tap water. I can write a small check to a non-profit of my preference. And my choices go on and on. The ‘spring of hope’ is born from such small gestures and actions – endless opportunities available to each of us. In this world of worst and best of times, choose wisely.

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