Do you have hope?

The ibis is considered a symbol of resilience. Photo: Mike Montero/University of Miami
By Barbara Gutierrez

The ibis is considered a symbol of resilience. Photo: Mike Montero/University of Miami

Do you have hope?

By Barbara Gutierrez
Hope is an elusive concept, but it is a crucial feeling to hold on to at a time of crisis. During this COVID-19 pandemic, University of Miami faculty members reflect on how they maintain hope during this and other difficult times.

Various dictionaries define hope as “an optimistic state of mind,” “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best,” and “desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment.” 

Hope is an elusive concept. It can come and go at a moment’s notice. It is a crucial feeling to hold on to at a time of crisis. During this COVID-19 pandemic when the news brings deaths and images of so many people suffering—whether it is from illness, economic hardship, or family separations—there is a need to reflect and find sustenance. 

Several members of the University of Miami community reflect on hope.

“I do have hope because I believe in our capacity to creatively meet new challenges. I am impressed with the strength and determination I see in our communities, even as I am disheartened by irresponsible information and discriminatory characterizations. I am reminded of what matters most: genuine human connection and compassion.

“We need to find hope in our ability to communicate and engage, building on the constructive directions already paved and shielding ourselves from unhealthy practices. My hope is grounded in my confidence that the next generation will be informed and insightful leaders, able to steer us toward a more sustainable and compassionate society.” 

—Karin Wilkins, dean, School of Communication 

“Hope is an interesting quality. There is the hope that is connected to wanting things to be a certain way and there is the hope that springs from an abiding sense that as the future unfolds, things will be well, though they may not be what we wanted. It is this latter form that speaks to a hopefulness of the spirit and a trust in what emerges that sustains me in these trying times.”

—Scott Rogers, director, Mindfulness in Law Program and Lecturer in Law

“My hope comes from believing that humanity is quite resilient in trying times. We have seen how society has dealt with pandemics of distant and recent past, extreme weather events, as well terrorism attacks. In each instance, we found inner strength, as well as community. Both allowed us to find our way. We did not allow our reasonable fear of the unknown to grow and overcome our spirit nor to paralyze us. 

“Instead, many stood calm, reflected with purpose, thought of how to contribute toward solutions, and then when and as reasonable, moved into action—often creating new realities and new ways to cope, but also to thrive. 

“Resilient communities rest upon the shoulders of many responsible individuals coming together with a common purpose and for a common good in a sustained manner. There is no reason why that cannot happen again now, albeit through virtual platforms and with social distancing measures. I have lived through Hurricane Andrew, seen the Twin Towers disappear into rubble, experienced firsthand the devastation of the Haitian earthquake, watched the fear of parents dealing with MERS at our kids’ elementary school, and watched Bahamian communities attempting to emerge from the recent devastation. In each instance, I have witnessed acts of courage, kindness, and leadership. And, today, although there is no panacea, once again we are reminded to not allow adversity to quash our spirit.

“We can choose to be a part of constructing solutions—be they at the scale of our family unit, neighborhood, institution, or the community at large. We can take a dreadful event and aim to learn from it and with determination convert it into a positive. I have learned much from those past experiences and from those in my life that at each turn showed me what bravery, responsibility, thoughtfulness, and real leadership look like. Remembering their strength and resolve, and knowing that today, in like manner, scientists, doctors, and nurses will help us to navigate safely through these uncharted turbulent waters—if we as a responsible collective heed their expert advice—gives me hope, even when the circumstances surrounding us today remain uncertain and at times downright scary. I hope we’ll reflect upon this moment in history, having come away with enduring and maybe transformative life lessons—giving new meaning to 2020 hindsight.”

—Sonia Chao, research associate professor, School of Architecture

“It is such an interesting time to be reflective on hope when I have settled into the mindset of taking this moment one day at a time. Looking behind and thinking about the future, only fuels my anxiety and perpetuates the anger that I have toward the leadership both in my country of residence, as well as birth country.  

“Hope is commonly understood as having an optimistic view that positive things will result from negative events. While I am not sure that I can say that I have an ‘optimistic’ view of tomorrow, I have seen over and over again, through some difficult moments in my life, that a tomorrow does come. I am not sure that these are always positive outcomes but I know for sure that this is a moment in time and that tomorrow will come with whatever new experiences that it brings. 

“Thus, my hope comes from such experiences and the compassion that I have for others and that is extended to me and others. A larger appreciation for the human capacity to withstand and prevail during the worst of times serve as my grounding force in the hope for tomorrow. The Dalai Lama once said, ‘I find hope in the darkest of days and focus in the brightness. I do not judge the universe.’ Staying away from judging is allowing me greater focus on the here and now and peace in what tomorrow will bring.”

—Guerda Nicholas, professor in the School of Education and Human Development

“Hope is the belief in a better future. For hope to emerge, we have to nurture it with behaviors, emotions, and thoughts. In other words, we cannot just sit and wait for it to transport us to a better place. Hope must be helped. The way to do it is to dedicate ourselves to useful causes. The cause is the why. The hope is the what, and the actions are the how. The how can be concrete actions or even thoughts, but we must be actively engaged in advancing our well-being or the well-being of others.

“Victor Frankl was kept alive (during the Holocaust) by the cause of life and the hope of love. He yearned to be reunited with his family and to continue his work. He had been working on his famous book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” and the hope to be with his wife and publish his book were great motivators. They were sources of resilience. 

“All of us are motivated by prospective thinking—our ability to transport ourselves to a better place. We gain hope when we engage in actual projects to bring about a better reality. This new reality can be embracing your children again, finishing an important project, or achieving peace and tranquility. Each one of these hopes must be accompanied by specific actions. Before I fall asleep, I think about my family connections and what I can do to strengthen them. I reflect on my writing projects and I plan for the future. When I get up, I set priorities for what I am going to tackle today. These actions give me hope.”

—Isaac Prilleltensky, vice provost for Institutional Culture, professor of Educational and Psychological Studies