I feel despair quite a bit.
That may surprise people who know me personally.
I doubt very much that I come across as a person who experiences a lot of despair. I doubt that any of my family or friends would ever say, “Ed, you sure are filled with despair.”
And yet, the honest truth is that my heart is often filled with despair.
Not for anything in my own life, mind you.
I don’t think I’m that important.
But when I look around at the world, yes, the truth is that I feel a lot of despair.
I feel despair that a significant portion of people from my country continue to support Donald Trump as president.
I feel despair when I read about all the people from Syria who are fleeing their country, many of whom will live for years in refugee camps, with little or no hope for a future for themselves or their children.
I feel despair when I read about the millions of victims of human trafficking and sex trafficking, wondering how human beings can still treat each other that way in the 21st century.
I feel despair when I read about the awful treatment of animals in factory farms and in slaughterhouses, “living” only to be killed for food.
I feel despair with every case of rape, every case of sexual abuse, every case of physical abuse.
I feel despair when I learn that climate change is happening much faster than scientists predicted, that animal extinction is spiraling out of control, and that we’ve likely passed the point of no return.
I feel despair when I read about yet another person of color killed by the police without reason or justification.
I feel despair when I hear about all the people all over the world who are just struggling to survive, doing awful jobs that I can’t even imagine.
I feel despair when I think of all the children who want to go to school but are denied the opportunity because they had the misfortune to be born into poverty.
I feel despair whenever my wife tells me about a horrific case of animal abuse, like when she recently helped rescue a dog that had an eye cut out and was reduced to skin and bones.
All of these things and many, many more fill my heart with despair. And I can’t pretend that these things don’t happen, that they don’t exist.
Of course, I do my part to try and improve these conditions, but my efforts often feel so futile compared to the enormity of the problems.
Which just fills my heart with even more despair.
And yet, I choose not to give into my feelings of despair.
I choose the path of hope.
I choose hope over and over and over again.
Not out of any desire for personal happiness. Not because I can also read plenty of positive stories of people who are fighting to improve conditions around the world. And not because of a deep-seated belief that at some level people are basically good.
No, it’s not for any of those reasons—even though they all have value.
I choose hope for the simple reason that, ultimately, it’s the only path that makes sense to me.
If I give up hope for a better future for our planet, for the animals, for humanity, then I will have given up everything. And that, I refuse to do.
The power to choose hope in any situation is a precious gift and one that I cling to like a lifeboat.
The truth is that my heart feels a bit like Humpty Dumpty. It gets broken every single day, sometimes several times a day. And every time, I tape it back up using all the hope that I can muster.
Hope is what keeps my heart alive.
And so I leave you with this message:
I don’t know if you feel despair the way that I do. And if you do, maybe it’s for some of the same reasons. Or maybe it’s for completely different reasons. Either way, I urge you to find hope and to choose hope.
Find hope in whatever way and for whatever reason makes sense to you.
And when you find hope, plant it in strong soil, water it, and let it grow.
Because the world doesn’t need you giving in to despair. The world needs you choosing and living in hope—no matter what it takes.
Author: Ed Herzog
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Sara Kärpänen