Hope is the thing…with hiking boots on by Carike Claassen

I have a confession to make: I would absolutely love to be one of those bright-eyed people for whom the glass is always half full, but sadly I often find myself staring at a half empty glass, wondering who just drank my wine. Some have accused me of being pessimistic, though I’ve always just thought of myself as being a realist: If the crime statistics are saying x, and the labour department is predicting y, then I can see where the trend is headed and isn’t it perfectly reasonable of me to expect that z will happen? (Doom and gloom, whose only natural enemy is chocolate.) But yesterday, I found myself experiencing a bubble of something I can only call optimism, maybe even hope. Naturally, I have to share it with you – bright eyed optimists and kindred realists alike.

A friend whose can-do attitude I really admire invited me along to a local event called “Walk the Talk.” It is an annual institution during which we all are encouraged to “Walk the Talk” – put on those hiking boots and walk for a cause you support. Or walk just to challenge yourself; no matter the reason, as long as it’s something you believe in. We walked to raise funds for no-kill animal shelters, and hopefully encourage people to adopt rescue animals. So off we went to Johannesburg, bright and early on a Sunday morning, our backpacks packed with enough water for the day and sunblock duly slapped on.

Once we had arrived and made our way to the start line, I found myself surrounded by throngs of people who were all ready to “Walk the Talk.” There was quite the bottle-neck and our little group initially made our way at a snail’s pace, eventually shuffling over the official starting line as well. All around, people were waving banners which identified the cause they were walking for. Plenty of people had bought their pets along and the sound of excited barking mingled with that of children chattering and music playing.

I looked around at the sea of people stretching endlessly in front of and to the sides of me, and that is when it hit me. Here were more than 50,000 people who cared enough to stand up for something they believed in. A colourful group of Hindu walkers chanted and played on tambourines as they walked, right behind a group whose T-shirts proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah. People walked to stop rhino poaching, to cure AIDS, or to facilitate rehabilitation after spinal injuries. In this great sea of different colours, religions, and causes, everyone was encouraging each other or starting up conversations with the random walkers next to them, asking about their causes. People encouraged one another with “I’m so proud of you” and “I knew you could do this!”

Surely, amid all the war and hate and prejudice that does continue daily in the world, if 50,000 people from such different backgrounds can peacefully get together and show that they care about something, there’s a lot of goodness and hope left in this world.

I mean, I was there, I saw it -it’s only realistic, right?

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