Pearls of Hope

Winter sunset…

Emily Dickinson identified hope as withstanding the “chillest land” in her stalwart poem, “Hope is the thing with feathers.” In other words, the sun never sets on hope because hope has possibilities for a new day.  

Environmentalist Jane Goodall and co-author Douglas Abrams wrote The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times (NY: Celadon Books, 2021). Jane does not wear rose-colored glasses (or pearls) but she does deliver pearls of hope. There are 4 reasons for hope outlined: the amazing human intellect, nature’s resiliency, the power of young people, and an indomitable human spirit.

Goodall emphasizes that “real hope” requires action! Think of hope this way–when you take on hopeful actions, you create a domino effect because hope has contagious possibilities. When you choose your domino, you set up possibilities for another’s domino. We actually need a healthy contagion of positive domino action with yet another COVID variant circling the planet. Hope activities come in many forms.

Here is part of a much larger conversation between Jane Goodall and Doug Abrams:

Jane: “Hope is what enables us to keep going in the face of adversity. It is what we desire to happen, but we must be prepared to work hard to make it so…You won’t be active unless you hope that your action is going to do some good. So you need hope to get you going, but then by taking action, you generate more hope. It’s a circular thing.”

Doug: “Do animals have hope?” 

Jane: “Chimps will often throw a tantrum when they don’t get what they want. That is some form of frustrated hope.”

Doug: “Is hope an emotion?”

Jane: “No…it’s an aspect of our survival…it’s not a skill. It’s something more innate, more profound. It’s almost a gift…it is a human survival trait and without it we perish.”

You might guess that Jane’s “gift” metaphor might make me think of pearls. A pearl is a gift from the sea, parented by an oyster or mussel shell due to an irritant (or parasite) entering the innocent shell. Like the COVID irritant, the shell may be “taken” by surprise, but it immediately gets down to business–layering a fluid on top of the irritant. People have the ability to layer on protective measures when irritants appear too. Vincent Van Gogh explains a version of hope: “The heart of man [or woman or child] is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depths, it has its pearls too.”

Not every shell produces a pearl. But pearls-of-hope actions are a possibility. Whether we are battling COVID or any other life-storm, if we realize our indomitable human talents together as the human race, we can find pearls of hope.

 Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz:

36. What life irritants are you dealing with today?

37. How do you find hope in the depths of your challenges? 

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.


  1. Love this post. Very timely. Other voices suggest the new variant will not be so medically compromising. I hope these weeks with your Mother will be manageable. Prayers for you both, Frieda

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. Jan, I always am inspired by your thoughtful perspectives. Pearls have extra meaning for me as my father (Earl had a twin sister named Pearl who died of pneumonia in 1904.) He said this shaped his life and led to his becoming an obstetrician, bringing more babies into the world. This is an example of turning an irritant into a gift. I wear a small pearl in her honor.


  3. Thank you for the good thoughts on hope, and especially for including Jane Goodall’s wisdom from her new book, which I intend to get now that I know more about it.


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