When I think of hope, I am reminded of the story of the young boy who arrived in heaven a bit nervous about what was going to happen.

St. Peter met the lad and worked to put him at ease by saying, “Our Lord’s mansion has many rooms. You may choose the room where you will spend all eternity.”

The boy didn’t know what eternity meant, or mansion for that matter, but he was always up for an adventure.

He took St. Peter’s proffered hand, and walked quietly by the saint’s side.

St. Peter opened the door to the first room, and the boy’s senses were flooded with the sounds of carnival rides, lights flashing, and the smell of popcorn and hot dogs.

The boy had always loved going to carnivals, but he shook his head and said, “No, thank you.”

St. Peter went to the second door, behind which there was a room full of the latest electronics, a big screen TV, Xbox, Play Station, arcade games, and more.

The boy looked around, then merely shook his head no.

St. Peter moved on to the third door, which opened to an expanse of manure, at least a foot deep. The boy slid into the room on his knees and began frantically tossing manure aside.

“Lad, what are you doing?” St. Peter said.

And the boy shouted, “With this much poop, there has to be a pony in here somewhere!”

What makes this story funny to me is the sudden burst of enthusiasm and hope for what will be found.

The boy came to heaven not knowing what to expect, how to conduct himself, or how he would be treated. His rush of hope is the kind that often follows uncertainty about the future.

We don’t ever really know what will happen, even a minute from now, but we do have plans, expectations and dreams.

As events progress toward our goal, we feel hope for success.

If we have only negative expectations, then we can feel trapped or empty.

To have hope, we must find a way to get past what is holding us back, often our own fears.

When we lose hope, we feel an indefinable emptiness.

Restoration of hope is not always easy to accomplish when our burdens are great.

Often, we must reach outside ourselves, tap into the support of family or friends, look to our faith, or even to educate ourselves about more options.

One of the ways I get myself back on track is to say to myself, “There’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”

There are always options.

The current book I often recommend to folks searching for hope is “The Daisy: A Story for Anyone Who Has Ever Felt Like Just Giving Up” by Cheri Copley.

Finally, if we are hoping for the impossible, then we must recognize the door is closed and begin looking for that open window.

As I said before, there are always options.

Mary Greiner, a therapist, lives in Kempner.

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