Paperwork: I know hope is never a promise, but I’ll keep it nearby

Lonny Cain

The stage is set as I stare at the word “hope.”

It’s coincidental and now appropriate the word is by my keyboard. I see it easily as I type this ... and reflect on what it means.

The word is etched into a small, oval, stone-like trinket. It’s smooth and feels good to hold and perhaps squeeze out its purpose. To keep hope close. To keep hope in hand.

It rests in a small, clear glass ashtray – a perfect frame that adds a bit of brilliance to the translucent “stone” ... and the word.

This ‘hope” remains as part of my small writing world for a couple reasons. It was a gift from a reader. But also, the word speaks to me.

I am not the only one attached to the word “hope.” Don’t we all clutch it many times in our lives? Sometimes it’s hard to find. But it’s uplifting, right?

Now this might seem strange but there have been times I get angry hearing the word.

“There’s always hope,” some say. That seems true. But sometimes hope feels like a painful tease.

We all know people who agree to medical treatments, tolerating ugly side effects, being pulled along by hope. Until there is little or no hope. I suppose I would do the same.

I am not saying hope does not help. That’s what hope is for. Still, it can be painful. And I struggle at times with the idea of hope. Perhaps I expect too much. Hope for too much. Or hope for the wrong things.

Maybe I need an attitude adjustment. Am I a hopeful person? Am I pessimist or an optimist? I don’t know. Probably a bit of both. I’ve spent a lifetime as a journalist questioning everything.

A few things about hope do seem clear to me. It’s hard to function without it. And it’s kind of infectious. In fact, there’s so much hope in the world, it’s hard not to embrace it.

I realized this the other day. It snuck up on me as I watched a movie. I began to hear a song being threaded into a scene, a song that accented the moment. A perfect song.

“I see trees of green. Red roses, too. I see them bloom, for me and you. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world ...”

Louis Armstrong ... telling me I live in a wonderful world. Actually, he was showing me. I could hear it, feel it, and see it.

“I see friends shaking hands saying, ‘How do you do?’ They’re really saying I love you. I hear babies cry. I watch them grow. They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”

I was walking through a portal to hope – a song. But there’s also books, art, movies, faith. And family and friends. There’s so much more, all from people who believe in hope. They share it and nurture it. It’s often tucked into the pocket of love.

“Where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again,” wrote Anne Frank in her diary.

Or long before her, Marcus Tullius Cicero said it his way: “While there’s life, there’s hope.”

I need to understand that hope is not a promise. But it will stay on my writing desk as a reminder.

A tiny shout: “There’s always hope.”

Lonny Cain, retired managing editor of The Times in Ottawa, also was a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet in the 1970s. His PaperWork email is Or mail The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.