Stephanie Fox, former officer of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees
Listen to more of this conversation below:
What would the world look like if everyone had access to hope? If everyone had a legitimate reason to have hope?
Hope that their family would be safe and secure? Hope that the misery of poverty would not define their entire life? Hope that a life of dignity was actually a possibility?
In my eight and a half years of living in Palestine and Israel, I’ve seen first hand the power of hope. Hope seems to be a very good indication about what actions people are likely to take. It seems to be a part of the equation as to whether or not those affected by war are compelled to take up peaceful actions or violent actions. Whether they pick up a book and a pen, or a gun and rocket launcher.
Upon reflection, a large part of my work with the UN in Gaza was about giving people hope.
At the time, it really, really looked to me like hope was something that came from one’s circumstances, i.e. a certain level of education, job prospects or family life, whether or not you had experienced trauma, etc. However, I noticed it was never consistent; often people in relatively well-off circumstances didn’t have a lot of hope and those in miserable condition did. How is this possible? How can people who have been through the most devastating life events have different degrees of hope ranging from none to a ton?
The only explanation that holds water, with no exceptions, is that our state of mind –including whether or not we feel hopeless or hopeful – is determined by our thinking in the moment. Our experience of life is generated by the thoughts passing through our heads at any given time. Our experience is coming from inside of us – not the other way around. This is at the heart of the understanding to be discussed at the One Solution conference.
When I first came across this understanding a few months ago, I thought it too simple to be profound and dismissed it as a nice idea but nothing that could change individual lives, let alone the world.
I’ve seen it at another level now. I’ve seen how an understanding of the mind can give you freedom of mind. When you can become an observer of your thoughts, rather than the person that must take action upon them, something opens up.
For me personally, just being able to recognize when I’m in a hopeless state of mind, has given me a freedom of mind and incredible hope knowing that it is not my circumstances or anyone else’s that are actually hopeless. From this observer position, I can merely wait until my hopeless thought storm passes and my state of mind changes as it inevitably does.
And when it does, the world looks different.
It looks hopeful.