A leader is a dealer in hope

“A leader is a dealer in hope.” This is one of my all-time favorite quotes (courtesy of Napoleon Bonaparte). As we approach the beginning of a new year, many of us are thinking about new beginnings. If 2010 was a difficult year, we hope for a better 2011. If 2010 was filled with joy and great memories, we hope for continued good fortune in 2011.

Hope.

It can be such a powerful feeling. There is so much emotion associated with feeling hopeful.

Think about a time in your life when you were filled with hope, when you waited with great anticipation for an event, a moment, an opportunity. We hold on to these precious memories; in fact, these memories can bring us more hope. We look forward to creating more moments that bring us happiness and peace.

Now think about a time in your life when you felt hopeless. We’ve all been there. You feel as though you have nothing to look forward to; you’re unsure about where you are going. You struggle to understand your life’s purpose. There are so many significant life events that can bring about feelings of hopelessness: a serious illness, job loss, divorce, family stress, financial troubles, and death. And then there’s everyday life, which sometimes can overwhelm us to the point of feeling hopeless about the future. It’s true that there are many circumstances we can’t control or change, but we can always control how we respond to what happens in our lives.

Over the years, I’ve known some amazing people who have hope in spite of seemingly insurmountable struggles. In my years working with folks experiencing extreme poverty and homelessness, I’ve encountered some of the most hope-filled people I’ve ever met. Can you imagine being hopeful about your future when you have no roof over your head? Do you think you could choose to be happy if you couldn’t afford to feed your kids? Most of us can’t even begin to fathom what that would be like. When I reflect on my encounters with these angels, I now understand this simple truth: I thought I was there to serve them; instead, they served me. They taught me about hope. They taught me about resilience. They taught me what it means to have a positive attitude. They taught me that I always have a choice. I can always choose how I respond to life’s ups and downs. I can choose happiness. I can choose to be hopeful.

This time of year should be filled with hope. Regardless of the outcome of 2010, we can choose hope for the year to come. We can choose a positive attitude about who we will be and what we will accomplish in 2011. I have hope for you, and I pray that you give the gift of hope to yourself.

Today and every day, I choose to be a leader. I choose to be a dealer in hope.

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