one word for 2013

Can you really choose just one word as a focus for an entire year? In the last few days a positive rash of ‘words for 2013’ has been erupting all over the blogosphere, thanks mainly to this link-up. I read a few and realised that in many ways having one word as a touchstone, a prism through which to view life for the following twelve months, is a whole lot better than making a heap of resolutions and then forgetting them.

I prayed a bit and found there was a word that kept nudging me and just wouldn’t go away.

The word was HOPE. And it made my heart sink.

Oh no, I thought, hope is what you need when times get really tough. I must be thinking of this word because I’m going to have a hard year. Um, can I have a different word please?

But I kept seeing the word everywhere and as I mulled it over it began to make sense. I thought of all the reading I’ve been doing about the state of the environment and in particular about the way our busted food system continues to wreak havoc on the earth and in the lives of individuals.

It’s hard to pick from the abundance of grim facts out there, but here’s a couple that I came across just yesterday.

  • In 2012, China bought up sixty per cent of the world’s soya beans and fed them all to pigs (story here). I’m not having a go at China in particular – for years the west has been destroying virgin rainforest in order to farm cattle for our beef addiction.
  • In Ethiopia, a prime target for foreign land acquisitions yet also a major food aid recipient, an acre of land can be leased for less than $1 per year. (See this factsheet from the Earth Policy Institute.)

The statistics seem overwhelming. How can we respond to injustice and stupidity on such a massive scale?

We can despair – the opposite of hope – and there is a certain logic to that, but it achieves nothing and makes our lives meaningless.

We can ignore it. It’s easy enough in the midst of a busy and often anxious life: deadlines to meet, shopping to do, family to care for. But it’s the equivalent of sticking our fingers in our ears and shouting ‘la, la, la’. It changes nothing and sooner or later people will tell us we look stupid.

Or we can hope.

peony shoots: hope of glory

peony shoots: hope of glory

In 2013 I am choosing hope. This is quite a discipline. I am a natural pessimist with a tendency to depression. But I am choosing hope because it’s only through hope that things ever change.

peony bud

I am choosing hope because I have seen, for example, how a handful of committed individuals set up an amazing movement called Incredible Edible Todmorden (motto: we don’t do negative) and now their town is being transformed from post-industrial decline to a place with a burgeoning local food economy that is building real community and creating proper jobs.

peony unfurls

I am choosing hope because I believe the tomb was empty on Easter Day and that God is still active in the world, bringing good out of evil and hope out of despair.

As Tom Wright puts it: ‘Hope is what you get when you suddenly realise that a different worldview is possible, a worldview in which the rich, the powerful and the unscrupulous do not after all have the last word. The same worldview shift that is demanded by the resurrection of Jesus is the shift that will enable us to transform the world.’ (From Surprised by Hope. This book changed my life, no exaggeration.)

I am choosing hope because I believe that with this God it is never too late to change.

peony bloom


2013? Bring it on.

one word logo

14 thoughts on “one word for 2013

  1. Joanna this is such a beautiful and insightful post. I’m going to join you on this. I don’t know what my word will be… it will come to me as your did. I’ll let you know. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, honesty and beautiful photographs.

    • Jacqueline, you are always so encouraging – thank you. I would love to know your word when it comes to you.

      On Thu, Jan 3, 2013 at 5:15 PM, Joanna Dobs

  2. Love that you are embracing HOPE! Walter Bruegemman, my favorite scholar/prophet, reminds us that in Isaiah we are called to hope on a grand scale, that we are called to be hopers! This has changed me perspective on life and corrected my eschatology, too. I’m so glad you’re a hoper, too!

    • Lovely to see you here, Kelley. Isaiah has also influenced my thinking on hope, although I haven’t read the Brueggemann. I think perhaps I should do so in this year of being a hoper!

    • Thanks, Colin. I love this film but had quite forgotten this beautiful speech. Looking at it again, I was struck by him saying that the conclusion of his journey is uncertain – but even so he can barely sit still for excitement. I realised I too must dare to be really excited about life, even more so because the conclusion of our journey is certain sure.

  3. Jo, I always love reading your posts ~ they are always so well-written and insightful. To choose ‘hope’ as your word for 2013 is a most wonderful thing, when it is otherwise so easy to look around and find despair in vast supply. My ‘hope’ for you is that your 2013 will be filled with just that.

    One last thought….perhaps the best take on ‘hope’ that I know:

    Hope is the thing with feathers
    That perches in the soul,
    And sings the tune–without the words,
    And never stops at all,

    And sweetest in the gale is heard;
    And sore must be the storm
    That could abash the little bird
    That kept so many warm.

    I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
    And on the strangest sea;
    Yet, never, in extremity,
    It asked a crumb of me.
    ~Emily Dickinson

    Happy, hope-full, New Year, friend!

  4. And happy New Year to you too, my friend. Thank you for your lovely comment. The first line of this poem has been flitting around my head for days and I hadn’t got around to looking it up. Thank you so much for sharing it – it is exactly right for my hope-full year.

  5. The most inspiring person I ever worked for used often to talk about hope-filled outcomes in relation to relatively small issues. We never had problems, we had challenges; thought showers instead of brainstorms, lots of game playing and fun. She was – and remains – an inspiration.

    May your 2013 be full of challenges, good thoughts, fun and hope.

  6. She sounds amazing. I love the idea that hope is linked to fun and am quite excited about the possibility of more fun arising as a result of this focus for 2013.

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  8. Pingback: hope: an update | Joanna Dobson

  9. Pingback: 2013: learning about hope | Joanna Dobson

  10. Pingback: One word for 2014 | Joanna Dobson

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