If you’re looking for inspirational stories, all you have to do is look at pretty much any page in history. For millennia, human beings have found their inner strength and soldiered forward. It’s in our nature to find motivation and not give up. And thank goodness! Imagine if the first humans threw away their flints and rocks when the first strong wind or rain storm extinguished their fire?

Thank goodness we do not quit.

Instead, we light the fire again and then find a way to keep it going.

We keep climbing in the face of adversity because we have the capacity for hope.

Hope has kept me going through many hard times. During my husband Garry’s battle with terminal stomach cancer, the hope that we might have one more day as a family was our biggest motivator. After he passed, the hope that my children would know how much he loved them and that they would still have good lives kept me moving despite the loss.

Even though hope has played such a powerful roll in my life, I’m not always aware of its presence. Perhaps, that is because it is a somewhat innate human trait.

Recently, a simple story reminded me of this. Recalling how beautiful hope is and how it has helped people for thousands of years put a little more love in my heart. So I wanted to share the story in “hope” that it might help someone going through a hard time to keep a positive outlook.

Last Saturday wasn’t a Todd Gross Top 10 Weather Day; it was drizzly and dull. The type of day when you light scented candles and do a few light chores while also preparing and monitoring a perfectly roasted meal.

Actually, that sounds sort of lovely. But, when you have two boys, ages five and seven, it’s not all productivity and soft background music. In fact, most of your “productivity” is spent curbing meltdowns and devising activities so they don’t end up either slack-jawed in front of the TV all day or hucking Legos at each other with weapon-like precision.

Part of any good rainy day schedule generally includes storytime.

I have a few books that are very special to me. Most are from my childhood, like copies of The Little Prince and The Velveteen Rabbit. Some are even from my grandmother’s childhood. This Saturday, I pulled from the shelf a book from my grandparent’s house called The Wonder Book of Myths and Legends.

As a kid, I loved all mythology. How they explained the world around us through these neatly-tied anecdotes tickled me. Beyond that, these stories that were thousands of years old transcended time; the basics of being human haven’t changed much. And that made me feel connected to all those who came before me, a pretty powerful emotion from a few ancient myths.

In truth, I hadn’t looked at the book in a long time and had forgotten many of the stories. But, I knew at least that they entertained me and bet they would also keep my sons’ attention.

The first story we read was about Pandora. As a very quick refresher, Pandora was the first woman, created by the Greek Gods and sent to Earth. Upon reaching Earth, Pandora married Epimetheus, one of the two Titan brothers. After the marriage was official, each god gave her a gift. Zeus gave her a large jar (now known as Pandora’s Box). The brothers argued over if she should open it or not. At this time, Earth was a pristine and beautiful place, without any ills, much like the Garden of Eden. Yet those gods are always mixing up trouble. Hera gave Pandora the gift of curiosity. And so, just like with Eve in the Garden of Eden, Pandora’s curiosity and lack of self-control caused her to open the box. Upon unhitching the little latch, she inadvertently released all of the evils into the world. The point of the myth of Pandora’s Box is to explain why there are bad things in the world. But, at 40-years-old, I took the secondary theme to be much more important.

Poor Pandora realized she alone had released cruelty and treacherousness into a once pure world. Feeling heartbroken, she searched for one more gift she may have missed. At the bottom of the jar, there was a tiny gift, but one critical for survival in an imperfect world – the light of hope. Hope was a concept the humans had not needed until then.

Excerpt from Pandora's Box

I asked my 7-year-old what he thought the story’s moral was, and he acutely said, “When things are bad, we always have hope.”
Spot on Rhett.

Without hope, Garry may have given up on diagnosis day. I may have quit on the day he died. But, instinctively, we move forward because somewhere in our hearts and minds, we have hope. It is a human characteristic that has existed for thousands of years.

The world has seen many horrors, but people have always had the propensity for determination and strong will. Those are some of the attributes that have allowed us to survive.

So, on that Saturday, an ancient story reminded me once again of how important hope is. But, I also realize being hopeful is a choice, sometimes it might be a subconscious one, but it is still a choice.

Hope might not be a gift from the gods, but it is undoubtedly a gift we can give ourselves and share with others. I’m pretty sure my boys have it, and I hope you might draw inspiration from the story as well.
Thank you so much for reading! Make it a great day


This essay was originally published in March of 2017.

A small gift of hope; crocus poking out from beneath recently snow-soaked mulch.