The year was 1858. A young Englishman named Henry accompanied his father on a hunting trip that ended in tragedy. The father accidentally fired his shotgun, blinding his son in both eyes. Henry was only 25 at the time.
Before the accident, Henry had been a bright, ambitious young man with a promising future. No one would have blamed him if the accident had made him bitter and full of despair. And that was how it did seem at first. But there was one thing that saved him: he deeply loved his father and knew that his father was nearly out of his mind with grief at what he had done.
The only way he could save his father’s sanity was to choose hope over terrible despair. And that is what he did. He pretended to be cheerful when he was not. He pretended to take an interest in life that he did not feel. He pretended to have hope that he could be a useful citizen, though he himself felt no such hope.
Then an odd thing happened. The pretence turned to reality. It was as if, by an act of will, he had exorcised an evil spirit, driving it out of himself. The result: Henry Fawcett went on to become a Professor of Politcal Economy in Cambridge. He later got elected to Parliament, and amongst other things, fought for women’s right to vote. At Prime Minister Gladstone’s request, he became Postmaster General, where he brought about great improvements in the English postal and telegraph systems, which were then replicated around the world.
It is the toughest thing in the world to face hopelessness, but, as someone once said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Sometimes all we can do is put one foot in front of another, but that is enough.
Despair can paralyse, but love, and the knowledge that there is always someone who needs us, can give us the strength to keep going. And if we refuse to quit, we will realize sooner rather than later that we still have agency and things are not as hopeless as they seem.
Have a happy and hopeful week!