One of our librarians made a display called “Hopeful for the Holidays.” People throughout the community have come in and written phrases and quotes about hope, togetherness, inspiration and love. I find myself wandering back over to the display to read the little sticky notes again and again.
It’s been a tough year. Fighting within communities, on television, in families. Cut budgets, fewer books, less time to help people. It is easy to lose hope in the world, in people and in yourself. But with every trip over to the display, reading simple words like, “Carry on,” “Do not let the world make you hard,” and “I still believe people are good at heart,” I remember that I am one of the hopeful ones.
I wasn’t brought up in an optimistic family. Most things were tinged in a veneer of doom and gloom. I remember going to college and being confounded by an item on my sorority sister’s desk. She had a calendar with an inspiring quote for each day. I’d never seen such a thing! But over the years, I came to understand that people put in work to remain hopeful—it doesn’t always just come naturally. They look at corny quotes, surround themselves with positive people and read inspiring books. And somewhere along the way, I became hopeful and it has helped me get though several impossible situations.
I don’t think my family was that different than others, neglecting to teach the important lesson of hopefulness. Wouldn’t it be great if all kids learned this message—to keep working to hold on to hope—at an early age? Perhaps New Year’s Day is a good time to start a new family tradition, one that focuses on hopefulness. There are several wonderful children’s picture books that portray this very message:
- “The Stars Will Still Shine” by Cynthia Rylant. Rylant reminds children that even in uncertain times, the sun still comes up, the flowers still bloom, and the birds still fly high overhead. It encourages kids to appreciate and take comfort in the simple, reliable pleasures of the world.
- "Squirrel's New Year's Resolution” by Pat Miller. Squirrel determines to start the New Year afresh with a resolution, but forgets about his project as he goes throughout the community helping other animals that need it. Children will take away the message that actions speak louder than words…or resolutions.
- “A Child's Garden: A Story of Hope” by Michael Foreman. Foremen is the master of hopeful children’s books. In this one, a little boy in a war torn country nurtures a vine growing amidst the rubble. When soldiers destroy the vine, it springs up across a fence the boy can’t reach, but he finds that another child has taken up nurturing the vine until it begins growing again. This one gave me the chills! Look also for Foreman’s “Oh! If only….,” “Hello World,” and “Fortunately, Unfortunately” for stories about finding the silver lining.
- “It's Tough to Lose Your Balloon” by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. With cute illustrations and relatable situations, Krosoczka goes through scenarios that typically would be hard on a kid, but shows the good that can come from each of the losses.
- “Hope Is an Open Heart” by Lauren Thompson. The author goes through the everyday aspects of life that can bring us hope. The author’s epilogue is lovely and reminds us that hope is contagious…something that kids can definitely “catch” from their parents.