Last week and through this medium, I presented an article which was designed to encourage us to take an urgent and closer look at our health as a nation. There was a focus on our physical health – which is currently under the threat of increasing non-communicable diseases – but there was also significant light shone on both our mental and our spiritual health as a people. I strongly believe that in order for us to properly and successfully progress as ‘Team Barbados’, we have to ensure that all aspects of our nation are, collectively, in optimum health and ‘firing on all cylinders’. It stands to reason that significant improvement in our macroeconomic metrics will mean little to nothing if our people are physically incapable of producing, are mentally unable to contribute and are spiritually and morally anaemic.
This week, I wish to spend some time frontally addressing another ‘bug’ that I believe is slowly but steadily permeating the very fabric of our society – hopelessness. Over time and through my daily interactions with my fellow citizens, I have noticed that there seems to be a relatively high degree of hopelessness being manifested at all levels of our society. Regrettably, we have older folks who have seemingly given up on believing that their fortunes would ever change, and we have younger folks who express a troubling level of frustration relative to their prospects and potentials. It is evident in the business community, it is apparent across the workforce and it is even visible within the student body at all stages. This hopelessness is causing some of our people to throw in the towel and it is causing many others to simply stand still – not willing to take another step in another direction for fear that nothing will change, nothing will improve.
Hopelessness can be succinctly defined as an absence of hope and it manifests itself through despair, despondency, desperation, feelings of futility and a blasé approach to life’s happenings. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 13:12 that: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Have you ever sat at your desk while at work, excitedly looking forward to getting home and partaking in a special meal, snack or even a beverage, only to discover upon arrival that it was already consumed by another? How did this make you feel? Outside of the immediate anger, I know that there are some people who won’t even be able to bring themselves to eating anything else for the rest of the night as they had their heart set on that particular item. When we lose hope in life, in general or in aspects thereof, we can become uncaring or indifferent and we can lose the desire to put in any efforts at working towards a better future. When this pervades a country, it must be quickly addressed and medication needs to be prescribed to arrest and remedy the situation.
Hope is the cure for hopelessness and leaders hope. Leaders tend to be what I call ‘future-oriented’. This refers to having one’s ‘mind’s eye’ focused sharply on the future and not being easily distracted by current challenges and setbacks. It is like an Olympic marathon runner who pushes through every painful step, every torturous inhalation and exhalation and each highly persuasive thought about simply stopping; he or she does this by keeping his or her mind stayed unwaveringly upon the finish line. This is what hope does in the life of a leader – it allows them to keep moving forward despite the disappointments and even the failures they face.
But not only do leaders hope, they also inspire hope in others. Leaders help those around them to hope in a brighter day. Several of our young people seem hesitant and are, in some cases, incapable of seeing past the dark clouds through to the blue sky over in the distance. They think that they will always be unskilled, uneducated or unemployed. They feel like there will never be opportunities for them to advance and to make a positive contribution to this society. They feel like they lack value and are destined to meander through this life, taking it as it comes. They lack hope. But leaders are the ones who can tap them on the shoulder and point to the little glimmer of sunlight peaking through the clouds. Leaders are the ones that will create opportunities for our young people to become all that they have the potential to become. Leaders are the ones who will reaffirm their value by supporting and encouraging them to dream big dreams and to hope.
Leaders also inspire hope relative to action. You see, hope is not just about having an expectation that things will get better, hope pushes us to take action that will result in such improvements. We don’t just sit and longingly wait for that which we hope but true hope urges us to first think, then speak and then act in such ways that will cause that which we hope for to become our reality. Sitting still is not an option. Abandoning hope is not an option. For each and every one of our citizens, there is a need for constant reminders that not only is it brighter up ahead (where the ray of sunlight is peaking through), but we must not relent from taking every step towards that light. All leaders must use their influence and ‘powers’ to inspire others to hope and in hoping – to become.