Cope and Hope

by Blaney Pridgen

All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.

Cope is a very good verb.  It is dealing effectively with something difficult.  Too often the thought of coping suggests a monotonous poverty of spirit, when we say with resignation “it is what it is.”  Then we muddle away doing what seems best at the time.  But coping is more than mere surviving and getting by.  Coping is effectively managing a circumstance, a predicament, or a plight.  It is a willingness to tackle a matter hopefully with creativity, energy, elan, and unavoidable change.  

Hope is a very good verb, almost as excellent as love.  Hoping is feeling that something you want may happen.  Hoping is expecting, planning, and dreaming with confidence and faith.  Just as we live lost lives without love, both given and received, we are also lost without hope, given and received.  

Cope and hope not only sound alike, they are also entwined in intimate relationship.  I believe we cannot have one without the other.  Furthermore, hoping has no meaning unless it is prefaced with coping.  Meaningful hope, more than an idle dream, flows out of a foundation of a lot of coping.  First comes cope then real hope springs forth.  An extreme example of this is being trapped in a cruel concentration camp, like Auschwitz.  In this situation, if there is to be hope of any survival; then, there must be active coping with the plight.  Without coping, only hoping is just waiting to die with daydreams to get by.  Saying “it is what it is” and just scratching along without a plan fosters no hope.

We are living among many difficult situations today.  Covid in all of its complexities is most obvious.  Cultural and political divisions remind me too much of the years before the Civil War.  Immigration and racism have both risen to the level of a crises requiring action and not just issues for discussion.  I believe that a serious collapse of the way we do medicine and the way we cope with China are on the horizon.  Whether we call it global warming or not the magnitude of continual natural disaster are harbingers worthy of attention.  All of these situations need our best coping skills.  Remember coping is a willingness to tackle a matter, hopefully with creativity, energy, elan, and unavoidable change in the way we think and then do.  Hope will never happen without cope.

Don’t tell me what you’re hoping for.  Tell me about your plan for coping in the meantime.  This applies not only to the aforementioned we share, but also to personal situations.  When we face into grief, illness, financial failure, or the collapse of relationships we had depended upon, hope is small comfort until we have begun to first cope.  I know I may be stepping on tender religious toes here, but some of our notions of prayer are more about hope than cope.  What value is prayer if it does not inspire some action on behalf of the person for whom we are praying?  We are the answer to our prayers.  I believe that our hope-filled prayers sent heavenward to our Higher Power are answered when we are inspired to do something, to hope on the behalf of others or for ourselves.  We might remember this the next time we tell someone that we are praying for them.  While we are hoping for them, what will be our role in coping with them?

Coping does not always lead to the outcome of what we hoped.  Our attempts in coping with a situation involves a lot of trial and error.  But we must start to plan and act somewhere or hoping is of little value.  We like to say life is a journey.  That sounds nice like the magnet on the refrigerator or Hallmark greeting card.  But life is also a battle.  We might hope to win the battles, big and small, but in the meantime, we must have a plan and another plan if that one fails.  We must equip and keep the supply lines flowing.  We care for the wounded and are humane with the prisoners.  We cope with the unexpected.  We know when to advance and to retreat.  We want our leaders to tell us exactly how we shall prevail.  We don’t need to hear pieties about our goodness and the rightness of our cause, as the battle rages on.  We want to live to win.  We want to cope.  Hope is good, but hope is another day until we have managed to cope.    

I believe this will go down to a miserable year.  Perhaps the next one will be pretty miserable too.  But this isn’t about losing hope.  This is not cynical.  Rather, this is a call to cope with all of the skills and imagination we can muster.  We can do this if we are willing to act and to not be afraid of change and experimentation.  We may need to follow our leaders if they are not afraid to lead.  Plans are good things, even when they must be modified.  We can have our high hopes about restoring a past, renewing the present, or ensuring the future, but in the meantime, we better cope or we just might die in the midst of our daydreams.