How do we create hope? Here’s a way

Picture was taken and shared by Mary S..

“Nebraska” is arguably Bruce Springsteen’s bleakest albums. Striped-down, acoustic, and set in a hard world littered with morally reckless characters: murderers, drunks, gamblers and thieves who lack any sense of empathy.

I was never a big fan of the album. It’s flat, slow, and droning like rush highway traffic.

God, what I wouldn’t give to be stuck in rush hour traffic this afternoon.

Anyway, I suspect many of us are feeling a mounting grocery list of negative emotions right now: frustration, loneliness, sadness, and hopelessness.

Maybe it’s me, but I feel we’re all secretly asking ourselves, “Okay, what should I do now?”

From us average folks thin on toilet paper to the suits running the country behind a podium I sense–no one really knows what they’re doing.

In one of my favorite books, “The Obstacle is the Way”, author Ryan Holiday explains, in times of uncertainty, you should do three things:

work hard, be honest, and help others as much as possible.

No matter your lot in life, a millionaire or a recently laid-off factory worker, if you construct your days on those three, seemingly little things, you’ll find big meaning and big certainty in uncertain times.

Work. Hard work doesn’t have to pertain to finance. You can work hard at what ever you’re doing right now– cleaning the garage, making dinner, reading with your child, writing a poem, singing a song. The point being, don’t just sit and lament about hard and uncertain times. Do something. Work hard. And hard times become less hard when you lose yourself in the sweat of work.

Honesty. It’s dangerous, in times of uncertainty, to believe you’re own fiction. Tell yourself the truth. Tell others the truth. Accept the truth of the situation. If you’re afraid of contracting the coronavirus– tell people. If you want to social distance– tell people. If quarantine is taking an emotional toll on you–tell someone. Have courage to embrace the truth of the moment.

Helping others. I get it, we can barely leave the house, but call someone, Zoom with someone, send letters, send thank-you notes, make some hot coco and talk to your children about the situation, if you have food delivered leave a generous tip, donate to relief funds. Do something for someone else. Exercise your empathy.

I’m sure there’s a more poetic way to say this but– quarantine sucks.

We’re all hamstrung and hurting. Losing our mobility, our jobs, our human connections puts us in a very real emotional crisis. We don’t know what to do when all we know is taken from us.

If Ryan Holiday is correct and I believe he is– hard work, honesty, and helping others is how we will get through this.

Even though we may want to, this is not the time to get lazy, ignore the truth, and get selfish.

These hard days require the best of us. We can’t afford to take a day off. We have to do the little things. Because little things become big things in moments of great uncertainty. And so with the world paused, where inaction pervades– it’s our actions which provide the answer.

Over the last few days, the “Nebraska” album has been on repeat. I get it now. Maybe I had to grow up a little. It’s a hauntingly beautiful album. It’s a intimate portrait of human strife in times of great struggle and the album has become of my favorites.

The album concludes with, “Reason to Believe”, a shaft of light in the pit of darkness. The human spirit is tough. Maybe tougher than anything the world can throw at us. And in hard moments of despair and uncertainty, the human spirit proves to be elastic and resolute.

Chainsmoking French philosopher Albert Camus once said, “When there’s no hope, one must invent it.” Despite the absurdity of our current days, hope is invented through the simple acts of hard work, honesty, and helping others.

hard work + honesty + helping others = hope

Maybe this is an equation, in these hard days, that can help you find some reason to believe.

“… at the end of every hard earned day people find some reason to believe.” “Reason to Believe”- Bruce Springsteen

Be well,



Check out the quarantine-inspired poetry project my daughter and I teamed up for


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Need some encouragement? Some perspective? This hardworking, almost handsome, suburban soccer dad can help. Subscribe and, like a pizza, get my posts delivered to your door ( your email inbox). No spam. Just posts.

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