“Heart Spackle”: How do we remain hopeful when it seems hopeless?

By Tanya Winje, FCNI Program Supervisor
April, 8, 2020 -

In a phone conversation with my sister this past week, she shared a heartwarming story that I really needed to hear considering all that is going on in our world right now. My sister is the head “lunch lady” at an elementary school, and for the past week she has been handing out bagged meals to students in the parking lot of her school. She shared that several of the children who came to pick up lunch one day this past week expressed excitement that they had been provided with cantaloupe in their lunch sack. She said, “You would have thought that the kids were given a bag of candy based on their reaction to fresh fruit!”  My sister shared that she and her staff spent a considerable amount of time cutting and individually bagging servings of melon for the kids. The joy she shared with me over the phone about the children’s excitement was heartfelt and heartwarming. In this strange time we find ourselves in, faced with uncertainty, fears and the loss of “normalcy” a simple story like this really brought a smile to my face and almost brought tears to my eyes. These types of stories are what I personally call “heart spackle.”  

I define heart spackle--my own made up phrase--as a simple story, picture or moment that fills in the “cracked” spaces of our heart and reminds us of how the simple things in life can be such a gift. I believe that these small stories, photos, videos, and/or life moments can really fuel our reserves of hope and resilience. Whether it is a YouTube video of a cat that has a bird for a “best friend,” or a moment you witness your child pedaling a bike for the first time, these simple, sweet moments can get us through some challenging times in our life. And needless to say, we are all faced with a very challenging time right now, where I believe that “heart spackle” is going to be necessary to help us make it through this unprecedented storm.   

So how do we remain hopeful and resilient during the short periods of our lives that challenge us to our very limits? Or even remain optimistic when we are plagued by long stretches of obstacles that seem to come at us like tetris blocks falling from the sky?

For igniting hope in yourself, set limits and stick to them, and be sure to rest--you can only give so much. Use those healthy positive coping skills that get you through the rough spots, like counting or deep breathing, and then use those long-term coping skills that help you let the air out of your boiling tea kettle, like taking a drive in the car by yourself or sing at the top of your lungs to a favorite song (Dolly Parton is a good choice here. Who doesn’t love Dolly?) You can also exert energy physically or vent to your support person if that is more your thing. Think of ways you can help others get through this hard time. Post a sweet moment on your social media, call a friend and share a laugh, find a way to thank a first responder or an essential staff person. Laugh, have fun and play. Talk about your fears and intentionally, honestly communicate your thoughts and feelings to someone you feel safe with and supported by. Get affirmed by others that you are doing the best you can.  SOAK IN an unsolicited compliment and REALLY feel it. Cry about it if you need to!   

For igniting hope in others, mine for other’s strengths and take every opportunity to highlight and reinforce them. Be genuine, try not to use cliches that can come off as glib and meaningless, but rather choose your words carefully, tactfully and thoughtfully. Offer empathy and self-disclose what you are or have experienced to aid them in feeling connected. Always find a way to tell others how you care for them and feel about them when you have the chance. Don’t forget the, “I love you’s” when you hang up the phone, or in those moments when you are delighted in their use of humor, their unique outlook or in those moments when you want to say, “bless your heart!”  An “I am proud of you because…statement goes a long way in giving another hope and aiding them to build their resilience. This also helps them to see that they can achieve, learn and persevere, ultimately helping to grow and build their self-esteem and their belief in themselves. Displaying gratitude can also help to ignite hope and instore resilience in others by just simply thanking them for the opportunity to become a small or big part of their world.  

One thing I was recently reminded of when I passed a co-worker’s desk where she’d hung a quote from Brene Brown. The quote goes, “We can do hard things.”  Isn’t that the truth for us all right now? No one has it “easy” with the layers of complexity that this pandemic has brought upon us. I am hopeful that you and yours will be rewarded with the gift of delighting in the small, simple moments that spackle your heart and fuel your storage shelves of hope and resilience.