2006 — 7th Grade 2nd Place

Chris Okawa, Arizona

Often, my friends or family speak of hope and fear. "We're hoping for a miracle!", I am afraid we will lose." But what do the concepts of hope and fear really mean? Which is more powerful, hope or fear?

In every human mind, there is an aspect of fear. From the moment we take our first breath, fear is a protective mechanism. It comes with physiological changes such as rise in heart beat or surge of adrenaline which provide the fuel necessary for our "fight or flight' response. Fear is an instinct that can be that tiny voice or the hair standing up on the back of your neck. It can be a "feeling" you have or an instinct that someone or something is watching you, waiting to pounce.

The experience of fear can be very powerful. It can make people act crazy and can create mass hysteria. In many ways, however, fear can be healthy. For example, it would be a natural instinct to avoid an assailant. Fear can be paralyzing and limit your experience of life. Fear can rule your life and destroy it. Because I believe fear to be an instinct, I consider it to be an inexorable truth of being human.

By contrast, I believe that hope is a mystical facet of the human spirit. It is not necessarily an instinct, but a feeling. Hope is having faith and trust in something; to wish for something and have confidence in its fulfillment.

In order to feel hope, one must overcome fear. Without freedom from fear, hope may weaken. I believe that fear is dependent on the destruction of hope. Hope is often more subtle in its work, but never any less powerful. People can gain hope from religious conviction, personal experience, or from the support of those surrounding them. Whatever the source, we need hope to flourish in the stressful environment of everyday life. It is even more essential in extraordinary circumstances, such as terminal illness. Hope is a life force that is essential to situations where it is most unlikely. Here, Emily Dickinson describes hope:

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

I believe in this poem. I have seen the power of hope and I believe it can triumph over fear. My friend Haley struggled with Leukemia for seven of her nine years of life. Every day, she was afraid to some degree, but hope is what kept her alive. Hope for a healthy body and a life free from pain. Her hope was felt throughout our community as we raised funds for her, wore bracelets that bore her name, and hoped for a miracle. Ultimately, she lost her battle, but none the less, she was the strongest person I have ever known. Hope made her strong. My experience with Haley taught me that hope has immense power. Hope has the power to unite, to inspire, and to overcome fear. Hope can make us better people. Because of Haley I will not allow fear to rule my life, but will instead hope for the best that I can imagine.

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