In his autobiography, Nelson Mandela wrote: "I never lost hope that this great transformation would occur. ...I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there was mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. Even in the grimmest times in prison, when my comrades and I were pushed to our limits, I would see a glimmer of humanity in one of the guards, perhaps just for a second, but it was enough to reassure me and keep me going. Human goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished." (Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, p. 615)

The second thing I have learned about people who give others hope is this: there is this sense in them that "the good" will prevail in time, no matter what. Desmond Tutu calls it his belief that the universe is moral; he reminds us of all the bloody tyrants whose regimes inevitably bit the dust. Dr. King spoke about the arc of the universe bending toward justice. The good will always win in time.

Finally, Rebecca Solnit says that hope is not "like a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. ... Hope is an ax you break down doors with in an emergency; because hope shoves you out the door. ... Action is impossible without hope." (Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark)

What is the hope for which God created you to bring to your world, to your family, to your business, to your friendships? Is it to teach a child in the hospital his or her nouns and adverbs, or is it to do your part to bring global peace? Whatever it is, be a bringer of hope. You will thereby be your true self—the person God made you to be.

The Rev. Ed Bacon is a guest host for the Oprah's Soul Series radio show. He is also the rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California. If you're interested in taking the next step, you can hear his sermon on forgiveness from Christmas Eve or you can download the text of his sermon.

Keep Reading from Rev. Ed Bacon:
How to forgive
Face your fears head-on
Understand your existance


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