How can we shine hope to those outside our circle?
I've been thinking about hope. It seems to me that hope is a changing of a mind set, a view that somehow something will be different than what it currently is. For me, hope is born out of relationships and talking with one another. Or maybe talking with God. I think we tend to think about providing hope though doing something - maybe giving something, providing a service, etc. And these are okay - IF that is what is needed and wanted. But something forced or given without thought to someone else is not hope. Hope is what is in their mind, in their heart, through their eyes. And that's where the talking and relationships come in. When we truly take the time, as Jim says, to listen with empathy, to reflect back what is we have heard, to try to understand from another's perspective, then we can respond by providing (if possible) what they need, maybe something tangible, but just as often only a word, an affirmation, an understanding ear or a prayer.
I've also been thinking about the song we sing at Advent - Kindle a Flame. It doesn't say "ignite" a flame, but kindle - start a flame. And then provide the nourishment for the flame to grow. We often never know how a single word, smile, deed, or presence kindles hope for others. Just knowing we are there can be a start.
I find that a simple smile with gentle eye contact and an inner prayer of God's blessing to the fascinating people I pass along the way often receives a smile in return. They sometimes seems grateful that someone took the time to care about them for a bit. And I've been surprised how some see that as an invitation to talk a bit, sometimes even to share some concern they have, giving me opportunity to express encouragement in response. It can't be forced, of course, but can be welcomed and can close with a simple blessing -- e.g., may things go well for you, God bless you. It is amazing how thirsty nearly all of us are for a gentle, sincere blessing.
Your comment reminds me, Jim, of the importance of our individual names. Whenever I have the privilege to interact with someone in a service industry (wait staff, store clerk, check-in staff, etc.), I try to make a point to read their name tag and address them with a smile and their name. This acknowledges them as a person beyond the service they are providing and almost always brings the light of their smile to our interaction.
I really like Jim's suggestion and Eileen's addition of using a person's name.
Much of what we associate with joy and gladness is associated with light. We talk about times of darkness, dark deeds, etc. Any attempt to dispel the dark is a sign of hope.