The Bastion of All Virtues Is Hope

Of the four seasons, spring best symbolizes hope.
The Bastion of All Virtues Is Hope
Like springtime flowers, hope is a balm for the soul. (Biba Kayewich)
Jeff Minick

For farmers, it’s the time when the earth unlocks and soil, seed, water, and sunshine produce green shoots that represent the hope for a bountiful crop. For Christians, spring means Easter and the hope of resurrection. For the betrothed, it’s the traditional season for exchanging rings and promises in hopes of a shared future. For children, spring brings not only mud puddles for splashing and an end to heavy coats but is also the opening act for summer and the expectation of long, leisurely days without schoolroom books and bells.

And during this particular spring of 2024, something happened that taught me a lesson about passing hope along to others.

A Friend’s Request

In mid-March, a friend who spends long hours every day as a writer and editor mentioned in an email that she was undergoing greater stress than usual, which was probably an understatement. She’d lost her “writing mojo,” she said, and asked if I had any tips. Feeling like an apprentice advising a master carpenter of words, I sent her some ideas. Pick a topic for writing removed from your personal troubles, I advised, something that you can approach without emotions gumming up the works. Be aware that stress and fatigue take a toll. Assign yourself a deadline and stick to it. Remember, I told her, that you have lots of family, friends, and colleagues who value you for your talent, your character, and your good nature.

My friend responded the next morning, thanking me and telling me that my email had cheered her and given her hope. She also mentioned that she was “really heartened” by other friends and family members who had rallied around, offering that same encouragement.

But that’s the end of the story. Here’s the beginning.

Making Hope My Own

For the past five years, this woman, plus two other editors whom I admire and likewise count as friends, have asked that the articles I submit for publication, no matter how bleak the topic, must give readers some lifeline, however thin, of hope. In our back-and-forth emails, I had reminded my friend of this precondition: “You encouraged me right from the start to write articles of hope rather than ones born out of despair or anger. That last piece I wrote for you, the short one about getting together with friends and family picnics and meals, is just one example. We’re all aware of the possibilities of the darkness that might be coming—articles about that abound online—but you and the others have helped show me that hope is a weapon.”

And so, through the riots of summer 2020, the turbulent election that fall, the disastrous COVID-19 policies, and the inflation and cultural turmoil since then, I was charged with the task of bringing some sunshine to my readers. Consequently, and with very few exceptions, I have written several hundred articles on everything from a woman tending to her dying husband to our troubled schools to the ugly and dangerous divisions in our country, and always a given in those assignments was to find something good, some bit of light that might inspire rather than depress readers.

The result? In my case, hope became a habit.

And the hope I offered my friend? Ironically, it originated with her in the first place because she had insisted that I write those articles with their specifications of light and inspiration.

Passing It Around

Like springtime flowers, hope is a balm for the soul. (Biba Kayewich)
Like springtime flowers, hope is a balm for the soul. (Biba Kayewich)

Hope is infectious—this is one important lesson that I’ve relearned this spring. It can be passed from one person to another, sometimes with just a simple word or gesture. It can even behave like an alternating electrical current, going back and forth as it did between my friend and me, charging us up when we need it.

Outstanding leaders know the value of this virtue. President Ronald Reagan, for instance, understood that hope and the health of our country go hand in hand, and brought an end to American malaise through his constant goodwill and tempered optimism. “The Great Communicator,” as Reagan was sometimes called, was an expert in using a podium or a news conference to inspire an audience.

The fortunate among us have known men and women—a high school coach, a teacher, a supervisor—who possessed this same ability to instill hope and confidence in those around us. Without those encouraging people, the team loses, the student fails, and the performance of the work team remains mediocre.

This hope, by the way, is not the same as blind optimism. As presidents, coaches, and all other leaders recognize, hope comes from the heart and the gut. It faces troubles and problems with its eyes wide open, recognizing the struggles and the odds against us, but giving us the strength and ability to keep up the good fight in hopes of winning.

Passing on this resilience and hope to our young people is especially important, as they are vital tools for their mental and spiritual well-being. The young may learn something about these virtues in stories from literature and history, but they will first and foremost acquire these values from parents, grandparents, and other relatives and mentors. These adults need to be acutely aware of how they themselves react to adversity and what they say and do when confronted by misfortune and disaster.

Negativity breeds cynicism and failure. Hope is the mother of success.

Hope as a Weapon

Despair, as some do over the current state of our nation, and you’ve already lost the battle and the war. You might as well run up the white flag, plop down in a chair on your porch, and waste your time grousing about the end of democracy. The same holds true regarding personal matters. Once you’ve surrendered, your heart is still pumping blood through your body, but otherwise you’ve joined the zombie brigade, as dead to life as one of the poor addicts living on the street these days.

But hope—when noontime seems blacker than pitch, when we’re near the end of our rope, when moving forward feels like wading through a swamp—is the virtue of all virtues that keeps us going. It’s the sword and shield that fights off that dragon of despair.

And yet, it’s the strangest weapon in the world. When we give hope away, it grows more abundant and stronger within us. When we find its power diminished, hope can reignite with a word from a friend or even a stranger. In fact, when we think of hope at all, we likely envision it not as a blade of protective steel, but instead more like Emily Dickinson’s poem depicting hope as a small bird whose song has “kept so many warm.”

Springtime brings blossoms and flowers to the backyard. Hope, in whatever season, does the same for the soul.

Jeff Minick has four children and a growing platoon of grandchildren. For 20 years, he taught history, literature, and Latin to seminars of homeschooling students in Asheville, N.C. He is the author of two novels, “Amanda Bell” and “Dust On Their Wings,” and two works of nonfiction, “Learning As I Go” and “Movies Make The Man.” Today, he lives and writes in Front Royal, Va.