Hope is at the root

Drew, Jeff, Matt and I enjoy the view from the Reagan Library, July 2004

Drew, Jeff, Matt and I enjoy the view from the Reagan Library, July 2004

“Hope is at the root of all the great ideas and causes that have bettered the lot of humankind across the centuries.”Ronald Reagan

Touring the beautiful grounds of the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, it isn’t hard to understand why he was such an optimist.  There’s something about California that always inspired hope in me, too.  As a state, California is younger, wilder (in more ways than one) and seemingly boundless; the sky there feels as wide as the Pacific Ocean that stretches along the coast.

While California has some natural advantages other states may lack, I’ve found that all places have their own unique spots of serenity and calm beauty.  At times, I have to escape to some of these places to keep my optimism from being dashed to pieces by the turbulence of everyday life.  Hope is what carries us through the difficult times, and ignites our desire to take action and make things better in some way.  It really does lie at the root of all progress.

It’s easy to look back at times of positive change and forget how dubious or frightening they seemed at the time. It’s equally easy to be cynical and complain endlessly about what we see in the present.  While there is a vital place for criticism and correction, there is also much to be thankful for in any era, and there are always opportunities for improvements, large and small.  When the overscheduled days, grinding traffic or televised histrionics get you down, try escaping to a place that will help you re-connect with hope.


  1. Ellis Anderson

    Love the term “televised histrionics!” Thanks for the reminder about how a sense of place can ground us!

    • Hi Ellis, thanks for being here! Yes, the advent of 24/7 “news” broadcasting and “reality” TV has made producers pretty desperate for gimmicks to keep people zoned out in front of screens. Re: a sense of place – Bay St. Louis comes through so vividly in your book!

  2. MaryAnn

    What a great photo! I almost did not recognize the “man”, Drew! Great family! I will put Reagan Library on my wish list of places to see! Thanks to my library lady who has a knack for the best views!
    Does Jeff have a site at CaringBridge?

    • Mary Ann, I have not set up a Caring Bridge site for Jeff as I felt unready for that. Since he’s still working full time (when not taking treatments at Bethesda) and insofar as is possible, going about life as if he never got the diagnosis, we are just updating people via the usual channels, one of which has become this blog. The Reagan Library was greatly expanded a few years ago and is really fabulous now. One building contains the actual presidential plane used by several presidents, and you can go inside and see how it was configured; really fascinating. All sorts of other fun and interactive exhibits. It is definitely worth a visit, even for those who are not ardent fans of Reagan.

      • MaryAnn

        It had been a while since I was on Caring Bridge. Today, I read about Becca Thompson (nee Downey). She is cured! That was wonderful to read! Her family was at FF church of Christ years ago. Her dad, Ron Downey was our preacher. Great guy.
        Whole family was special. That was my only experience w/ Caring Bridge until a man in our small group sent us a notification, this morning.
        Looking fwd to Reagan Library, since we would be called “Reaganites” & be thankful for the compliment!

        • Hi Mary Ann, I guess I have only known of Caring Bridge through two friends of ours who died of cancer after a relatively short time. So my idea of it is different from yours – happy to know there are stories of survival and healing there too! If you are a Reagan fan, you will want to set aside an entire day at least, to see the library. Of course, I will also say please make it a point to enjoy gorgeous Santa Barbara while you are that close! I used to tell people that, if I was very rich, I would have a hard time choosing between living in Santa Barbara or Carmel! 🙂

  3. Sheila

    Julia, I see so many situations of gloom and despair. Our daughter,Stephanie, thinks I view everything with “rose colored glasses” and I just keep smiling. I do have to calm some fears, and present an optimistic environment because so many patients are facing uncertainty and the unknown. Personally, I think things are looking up. How about you? Sheila

    • Sheila, I do think things are looking up in many ways, and those are the things I will try to focus on. In every era there have been setbacks and challenges, just as there are things to be thankful for in every era also. I’ve been told I wear rose-colored glasses too, but guess what nobody seems to realize? You can actually see BETTER through them, because you see what is possible and not just what is wrong. 🙂 Every day that dawns is another blessing and I think we would all see this with far more clarity if we really realized how abruptly that blessing can cease for any of us. I guess I’d better quit pontificating…I’m preaching to the choir! Thanks for being here.

      • Eric

        I have had a private discussion about Caring Bridge, which I appreciate as a positive and beneficial site. The “bridge” is neither painted black, nor is it in flames.

        • Eric, thanks for the funny and accurate observation. I just have too many personal memories of that site, tied to these two particular people whose stories I followed there. I agree that it’s a positive and beneficial site, but part of my dilemma is that I’m barely able to keep up with my email and blog (in fact my email frequently gets totally out of control, as it is right now, with over 1300 messages in my inbox!) so I prefer this blog and direct contacts with those who are interested, rather than using Caring Bridge, at least for the time being. I did note when I went there that many people I knew would read Caring Bridge without ever leaving any notes (not even a brief reminder that they care, are praying, are reading the updates) and somehow that bothered me since presumably those who go to Caring Bridge do so because they care, and not just out of idle curiosity. It’s different with a blog, where readers don’t necessarily know you, so it’s doesn’t feel as one-sided when very few respond with comments or even by hitting the “like” button. One thing that separates online writing from traditional publication is that it’s interactive, which is what makes it preferable for many types of writing.

      • Sheila

        Good morning… Another beautiful day in the neighborhood. How did I know we both wore the same kind of glasses? Haha! Sure love ya, Sheila

        • Well they say “great minds think alike.” 🙂 I really do appreciate your visits and upbeat spirit.

  4. What a gorgeous view!

    • Yes, it’s amazing and extends at least 180 degrees around the buildings, maybe more. You can get an idea of it from this photo of the Berlin Wall segment. It’s a great setting for that monument to the tearing down of that wall.

      • That is very special to have a piece of the wall considering all President Reagan did to help bring it down.
        I’m surprised there was such a large piece intact!

        • Yes, I was surprised it was so large, too. I’m sure there were some history-minded folks who probably reminded people not to break it all into little pieces. It’s very inspiring to see it there and remember Reagan’s challenging speech, “Mr. Gorbachev, TEAR DOWN THIS WALL!”

  5. How I truly relate to your post Julia. I’ve had to dig deep of recently to hold on to and nurture hope. It really can carry you through the bumpy times. I found myself walking to a beautiful historical churchyard downtown that’s surrounded by a tall hedge and has quiet gardens & benches. I sat there one day and watched what I thought was a rabbit across a long lawn, when I got my camera out to zoom in for a picture, it was actually a black and white soccer ball, LOL. Then I remembered that laughing makes you feel better too. So, hope and laughter seems to be a good combination to life’s ailments.

    • Yes, a great combination, and when you think about it, the two have a symbiotic relationship. Laughter enables us to hold onto our sanity and therefore our hope, and hope enables us to see the humor in many situations. Love the rabbit/soccer ball story – sounds like the kind of thing I would do!


  1. Our conscious choice | Defeat Despair

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