What you hope for determines what you work for

August 21, 2023 5:50 am

(Photo by Dovapi/iStock Images)

It is August, a time for new beginnings, infused with hope even amid anxiety and trepidation.

August is rarely thought of as a time of new beginnings and reflection. But just think about it.

Vacations are ending.

It’s harvest time for farmers.

Kids, young and old alike, are beginning or returning to school.

August is the “New Year” for children and young adults embarking on new paths that could lead to better lives. Parents, friends, relatives and other caring adults share in this hope for better things — experiences, opportunities.

We can easily imagine what our children and other young adults are hoping for, but what are the rest of us hoping for? Given the circumstances of our personal life, our community and our nation, the mere question can be daunting.

It would be easy to dismiss it and avoid giving it much or any thought. But what you hope for also determines what you work for.

We are familiar with the Biblical verse: “Faith without works is dead.”

So is hope without works is dead.

Whether a new year starts in January or August, new beginnings and realizing hopes and dreams require work.

Hopes and dreams are never born or realized in isolation. While they can begin within ourselves and our families, they also spread abroad.


Obviously, we hope and work for the physical, mental, emotional and financial wellbeing of family members. For our neighbors and communities, we wish and work together to achieve the same.

Such work to achieve the common good can manifest itself in myriad of ways from meeting needs in normal circumstances to rallying in the wake of a disaster. Each of us can think of many instances where this is indeed the case.

Countless times in countless circumstances, we come together putting our work and resources where our hope is.

But beyond your families, and perhaps communities, are you sensing or feeling the existence of a shared, collective hope?

Do you sense there is a common dream on a macro level for what we want life to be in a future America? A year from now? Two years, five, ten and beyond?

We want our kids to be hopeful and work to have a good life, a better future. Are we pausing to give any thought to what that might or could look like?

How would you characterize the state of hopefulness in America today? Does it even exist at a level of abundance that can energize enough of us to continue to work toward achieving greatness?

If not, what do we tell and pass on to our children and future generations? What are they to work for to advance humanity and society?

Admittedly, if we just focus on or be consumed by all of the negativity, vitriol, divisiveness, political and partisan infighting, hate speech, racial discord, and the perpetual blame games throughout our public discourse — what appear to be interminable attempts to steal our hopefulness will prevail.

But these are signs and things that should bolster our hope and our resolve to continue to work for what we believe is good for our communities and our nation.

We also must remind ourselves that changes — good and bad — more often than not evolve slowly and often the signs elude or escape us because we are caught up in the moment or too preoccupied with the drama happening around us.

The seeds of progress and thorns of destruction, alike, are sown sporadically, often simultaneously in drips and drabs. They take root to be extracted or harvested. Any gardener, farmer or landscaper knows if the weeds, grass and thorns are not removed, they will choke out the good — whether vegetables, flowers, or fruit.


Are we even aware, let alone watching all of the signs — the weeds, thistles and thorns being sown to choke out what is good about our lives as American citizens?

No doubt you have a list of concerning signs. In addition to negative speech mentioned earlier that consumes our airways, there are others that have been occurring with increasing fervor in recent years. They include, among other things: attacks on the press, growing censorship of books, revisionist history, villainy against racial and ethnic groups, violence against those who are upholding and carrying out the rule of law. To name a few.

They are signs, and like puzzle pieces, together they create a picture.

Is it a hopeful picture?

Our hopes are not formed or realized in isolation. Our hopes, dreams and work have far-reaching impact and are inextricably tied to the lives of our family, our communities, and our nation.

As America goes, so go our hopes.

What America are you hoping to live in? Are you willing to put your work and actions where your hopes are?

There is another phrase worth remembering and believing during these times: “Hope springs eternal.”

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Janice Ellis
Janice Ellis

Janice Ellis has lived and worked in Missouri for more than three decades, analyzing educational, political, social and economic issues across race, ethnicity, age and socio-economic status. Her commentary has appeared in The Kansas City Star, community newspapers, on radio and now online. She is the author of two award-winning books: From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream (2018) and Shaping Public Opinion: How Real Advocacy Journalism™ Should be Practiced (2021). Ellis holds a Ph.D. in communication arts, and two Master of Arts degrees, one in communications arts and a second in political science, all from the University of Wisconsin.