Monday, April 15, 2024

Simon O'Connor: Hope

How two stories of adversity remind me of the importance of hope.

I am a great believer in hope. In fact, I think of myself as a rather hopeful person. Despite a world that often feels like it has gone mad, and my writing op-eds highlighting all the various problems and inconsistencies around us, I remain optimistic and hopeful.

I thought I would share two stories of people I have got to know for their expressions of hope and who have had a deep and profound effect on me.

In doing so, perhaps it may provide some encouragement to others who see a troubled world and wonder what the future holds.

Granted, part of the reason I am hopeful is faith related and not simply because of the experience of others. It is something important to acknowledge upfront as well. I come from a belief system that understands God has won a victory over sin and death. It is a situation that as a Christian, I celebrate at this time of Easter. Due to this, I don’t feel a particular worry, stress, or even pressure when it comes to the great issues facing humanity or the particular issues that confront me daily. I am called to do what I can to make things better, but I don’t feel that it is all dependent on me. As I say, believing that the victory is already won fills me with hope.

Faith aside, the two following experiences have deeply impacted me. The way these two people have overcome hardship gives me hope because these people never waivered in their hope. Both examples involved people fleeing totalitarian regimes they were caught in. Both now live safely here in New Zealand and both I had involvement with.

The first was someone defecting and in doing so, had to leave family behind. I will call him Roger. Despite the awful separation, fears of family being arrested at any time, Roger never gave up hope. I was always taken aback - and humbled - by his positive spirit. Where perhaps others would have despaired, Roger was hopeful. This manifest itself in an upbeat ‘can do’ attitude and unrelenting focus on finding ways to get his family out safely. I can tell you, this was not easy and there were many times where the situation was dire with family members caught in bandit territory between countries, exposed out in the open, or having to turn back due to imminent discovery by totalitarian authorities. I felt tense enough following progress and deep sadness when attempts failed. Yet Roger never gave up hope and this hope was finally rewarded, with his family safely reunited here in New Zealand. I recall, as if it was yesterday, when the message reached me that the final leg of the journey had been completed successfully, the family back together in Auckland airport, and that which was hoped for was now achieved. I felt a huge relief and to this day, can only but imagine what Roger and family were feeling. I still feel emotional as I recall those days.

The other was Lucy, fleeing Hong Kong after the crackdown by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 2014. She had left Hong Kong legitimately and made her way to New Zealand as a visitor. Having been deeply involved in the protests, although not ‘out front’, it was only a matter of time before authorities would have sought her out and so she did not wish to return. Being involved with the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), I was contacted via various networks to help and intermediaries of Lucy agreed a meeting with me.

She was near-paranoid and fearful and yet, simultaneously, hopeful that a good result would come.

I recall our first meeting something akin to a John le Carré novel.

Taking a car to one location, walking a block or two, seeking a taxi, rinse and repeat and finally reaching a destination where I placed a pre-agreed book on the table to identify that it was really me. I recall her first words - I knew you would come and help. I have always felt such words to be an expression of hope. Despite huge hurdles to overcome, she never waivered and like Roger, was relentlessly positive. When I ran into opposition, she was often the first to reassure me that we would get the right result. I have to admit, this was not always clear to me and I was the one who arguably had the better overview! But she was right. Her hope was right. Eventually, she was able to stay in New Zealand and has gone on to a successful career here as well as taking her hope and sharing it with others.

This is perhaps another aspect of hope that has become apparent to me over the years. It is infectious. Not only psychologically, but practically. Through both cases, their stories have encouraged others, myself included. But the fulfilled hope has also set a pathway for others to successfully follow.

I will probably struggle to write this as articulately as I want, but I see hope as a relational virtue. It is not simply a quality that benefits the hopeful person only. It expands and encompasses others. The hope of one person relates to others for it brings hope to them as well - both in spirit, but also through example. Just as with Lucy and Roger, their hope gave me hope. And it still does to this day.

Simon O'Connor a former National MP graduated from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and Political Studies . Simon blogs at On Point - where this article was sourced.

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