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Guest op-ed: The power of hope and the resilience of women

By Susan Madsen - | Apr 15, 2021

Did you know that in 2018 April was designated the National Month of Hope? After spending the better part of a year indoors, I find that hope has been an essential part of my well-being. One definition of hope is “to cherish a desire with anticipation: to want something to happen or be true.” Between the warmer temperatures, the flowers blooming and the availability of COVID vaccines, it really does feel like the world is full of possibilities. It seems fitting that this month the Utah Women & Leadership Project released a new study that explored the impact of COVID-19 on Utah women and work, and some of the questions looked at hope.

We know that the pandemic has disproportionately affected women in the U.S., with nearly 3 million women dropping out of the labor force. In Utah, roughly 3,600 participants took our survey that studied (among other things) the connections among work, burnout, exhaustion and hope. We did find that many Utah women have left the workplace during the past year and found that all women have struggled with the pandemic, work and life. And, although Utah women are feeling burnout and exhaustion across industries and different parts of the state, they are still seeing the possibility that things will improve. Hope is absolutely critical for our emotional and mental health and is also tied to resilience.

We are so prone to either/or thinking that it can be hard to reconcile how we hold two such disparate feelings — burnout and hope — at once, but it’s vital that we do. Hope is an often underrated emotion, sandwiched as it is between its two higher profile siblings, faith and charity. But it’s hope’s ability to be stealthy and lie dormant like the yellow daffodils that are popping up all over my yard that give it so much power. Hope doesn’t make any particular promises but “is merely the belief that there is the potential for something good to happen.”

This potential in hope can manifest itself in many ways. I experienced it during every FaceTime with grandchildren, when I see them learn to say more words, do more things or show me pictures they have drawn for me. Although teaching and training via Zoom can be challenging for both teachers and students, I have been amazed that the connections are still there: my passion to teach, their desire to learn, growth happens despite the obstacles. This is hope.

Even in the midst of hard times, perhaps especially then, hope is essential to keep us moving forward and looking for the possibilities. So even though Utah women as a whole reported that they are burned out, they also have hope for the future. This is good, and it is necessary. The Rev. Desmond Tutu captures it beautifully: “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” Like perennials remind us of rebirth, and vaccines will allow us to embrace each other again, this spring I am grateful for a chance to celebrate the power of hope and the resilience of women, both of which can bring light to a dark world.

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