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Now that it’s winter the creek is full. Upstream is so full that water is spilling over the driveway, making a small waterfall into the pool below. The water splashing into the creek makes a wonderful sound and likely also aerates the water for the fish.

This is obviously no Niagara Falls, but when I hear the water splashing it makes me feel like all is right with the world. Nature runs in cycles of scarcity and abundance, and a waterfall suggests there will be enough water for the fish and other creatures. We will make it through the next hot summer. The sycamore seed balls that I threw in the creek yesterday might sprout, and someday sycamores might grace the creek banks.

Our climate here is hot and dry much of the year. Abundant water doesn’t promise abundant times, but it is a fundamental element of hope for a rich carpet of wildflowers in the spring.

Hope is the thing that pulls us through hard times when we might otherwise despair. Caring for a loved one with a terminal illness is one of the hardest human experiences. Without hope for your patient to recover, you might have a hard time not succumbing to  despair.

Life can rob you of hope for your loved one, and living on false hope is generally unhelpful if at any level you know the hope is false. I can hope my leaky faucet will repair itself, but I know that is not realistic. Pasting a happy face on a dismal situation does nobody any good. Sometimes you just need to call the plumber.

If hope is to pull you from despair, it must hold the possibility of some real good. If the big hope of a cure for your loved one is not realistic, choose a smaller hope. You might hope to laugh with him today. You might hope to have a break from her today. You might hope the pink rose bush will bloom in time for a bouquet for your niece’s wedding. You might hope to see a bright red cardinal this afternoon.

If you have a realistic hope of some small, beautiful thing will you share it? Your small hope may spark the hope in the heart of someone you don’t even know. Together we might pull through these cold winter days to a flowering spring.

As I finished writing this, a pair of red cardinals landed in the pecan tree by the porch. Perhaps Glenda, the goddess in charge of minor miracles for caregivers, has awakened from her nap.

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