Perhaps you've seen the story on social media about a couple who fled their war-torn village in Sudan in 2012 trying to get to refugee camps in Africa. In the midst of fleeing, Dyan and Alik became separated, and evidence of their marriage was destroyed.
Alik was processed into the camp as a single mom. Dyan was processed as a single man, making him a very unlikely candidate for resettlement in the United States.
Alik arrived in Fort Worth, Texas, with her two children and their third child on the way, not knowing if she would ever see her husband again.
Enter Molly and Mary Claire, two moms who were looking for a way for their families to serve others. Catholic Charities ended up pairing these two families with Alik and her children. As they developed a relationship with Alik, she shared with them about her husband being stuck in a refugee camp in Egypt.
When Alik spoke with her caseworker about what she could do to get her husband to the States, the caseworker gave her very little hope of that ever happening. Molly and Mary Claire spoke with immigration attorneys, members of Congress and anybody else they thought might be able to help them in their relentless pursuit to reunite this family. They also were told time and again it would be a real miracle if this actually happened.
After four long years and reams of paperwork, Dyan was finally on his way to his family in America. If you haven't seen the video, it's worth searching for and watching.
As he walked into baggage claim, his boys jumped into his arms — even the 3-year-old who had never seen his daddy face-to-face. Dyan embraced his wife and then fell to his knees giving thanks for what he thought would never happen.
As you enter into this new year and new decade, perhaps you are dealing with a situation that seems hopeless — unemployment with no possibilities on the horizon, a persistent illness, marital strife or a family member dealing with addiction. Sometimes it's hard not to give up hope.
If you find yourself in this space, here are some suggestions to help you keep going.
Find a community to engage with.
It is likely that while both Dyan and Alik kept hope in their heart, there were probably plenty of days when they thought their efforts were futile. Their friends helped them keep going.
Be aware of your own self-talk.
Negative thoughts will almost certainly lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. As Carol Dweck in her book "Mindset" points out, self-talk is very powerful. Statements such as, "It hasn't happened yet; I will eventually find a way," "This is temporary," and "Even in the midst of the storm, I am learning," are very different than giving up hope.
Maybe you aren't able to do what you planned, but that doesn't mean you can't do something else while you are waiting. Alik did not stop living her life while she was pursuing getting Dyan to the States. While she may have begun to doubt she would ever see her husband again, she made friends with Molly and Mary Claire, cared for her children and participated in activities.
Keep putting one foot in front of the other.
As Dory says in "Finding Nemo," just keep swimming, just keep swimming. So often people decide to throw in the towel just before things start to turn around. Imagine if Alik and her friends just decided to quit trying after three years.
Phone a friend.
Sometimes it helps to talk with someone.
Using your skills to help others while you are in the midst of waiting will help you feel better about yourself and your situation. Also, you never know who you might meet while volunteering. You might encounter someone who needs encouragement and you are just the one to help. Or you might work alongside someone who can help you with your current circumstance. Either way, it's a win.
Desmond Tutu once said, "Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness." It's a new year and a new decade. If you are still on this Earth, you can still have hope.
Julie Baumgardner is president and CEO of family advocacy nonprofit First Things First. Email her at email@example.com.