Bottle up hope to lighten weight of the world

How do we “bottle up” hope? With so many things in the news that are hard to hear, hard to process and hard to talk about with our kids, I think we all need a way to bottle up hope to make it easier to move forward. After our schools were closed last Friday and yet one more person in my circle was affected by Covid, I felt myself giving up hope. As a parent, I know I can’t do that, so all weekend I wrote down the moments that made me smile to see if there was a common thread that I could bottle up to use when I need it most. I wanted to make the weight of things feel lighter, ensure that Christmas and New Years would remain something my family could look forward to, and give me a bottle of hope to revisit moving forward. Here is what happened:

I smiled listening to my kids tell stories from when they were little, comforted by the sight of my son back in his regular seat at the kitchen table now that he’s home from his first college semester; I smiled when our neighbor’s little ones begged to borrow my daughter’s old Calico Critters; I smiled as I listened to my son talk about the new Spider-Man movie with the excitement of a five year old; I smiled when my high school friend sent me a picture from a long time ago to let me know she was thinking of me; I smiled when my husband wore a snorkel headset around the house to embarrass his teenagers as we made plans for an upcoming family trip; I smiled when I opened a surprise gift that a friend left on my porch; I smiled when a neighbor told me how much he enjoyed chatting with my mom when she visits; I smiled every time my dog jumped on my lap.

The common thread for me in all these moments is the interaction with people (and pets!) in my life—some family, some friends, some neighbors. Sometimes in big ways but mostly in small ways, just knowing they are there, even if I can’t see them. The other thread for me is kindness; the smallest moments of kindness matter so much. Those moments remind me that people are good, and we can make a real difference for others and for ourselves when we treat others well. Connecting to my people through words, deeds, pictures, music, whatever, and moments of kindness… this gives me hope.

Sending a surprise text to an old friend who’s been on your mind; staying on the phone a bit longer than you planned because your mom needs to talk; attending an event looking for information and walking away realizing others feel the same way you do; reaching out to a mental-health professional at the hardest of times; organizing a community campaign to remind people that we are better together—all of these are acts of kindness. We’ve all seen those kindness or pay-it-forward-type challenges… “buy-a-coffee-for-the-stranger-behind-you-in-line” kind of thing. These small moments matter, especially when done collectively.

Extending kindness also means finding ways we can talk about difficult things with other people with civility, even things we don’t agree on. When I think about practicing “be easy on people but hard on ideas,” I feel hopeful. Imagine an entire community trying to do that on a daily basis.

So now… to bottle that up! Lucky for me, I work with a team at Pelham Together which is constantly thinking of ways to connect and be kind. And when I turned to them, we all agreed that hope is worth bottling! To start off, we want to remind you that you are not alone. If you need help, please click here for resources and support. Tonight, we are hosting a live discussion with two psychologists (both Pelham moms!) to guide us through talking to our kids about difficult subjects. On Thursday, a group of high school and middle school students will hand out treats to their peers to send them off for the holidays with messages of kindness and hope. And, mark your calendars for Jan. 8, when WinterFest is back to unite our community around the musical talent and neighborhood connections we all love so much. These are just a few ways that Pelham Together will bottle up some hope, so we can start 2022 strong.

Enjoy your people over the holidays— whether in quarantine or on vacation—and all the hope they bring to your life. I plan on filling my bottle with hope as much as possible, and smiling a lot too.

Laura Caruso is executive director of Pelham Together.