The world needs more hope

by Ruth Griffiths

People were calling him “the Hope Guy” because he was placing the word “hope” in various forms throughout Prince Albert.

It started during the early days of the pandemic lockdown. He was recovering from cancer surgery and was skiing at Little Red River Park. He used his ski pole to scratch the word “hope” into the snow beside the ski trail.

It was also close to the 40th anniversary of the Terry Fox Run… the Marathon of Hope. He had been an organizer of the Run for many years. Hope was a big part of his life and he wanted to share that hope with others.

He left messages of “hope” in the snow in many places. His biggest covered a soccer field. Walking on snowshoes, he created a huge “hope” sign in the snow between the goal posts. It took about two hours … an exhausting exercise motivated by the desire to encourage others in their personal battles during the pandemic.

Come summer, he continued to spread hope, scratching the word into bare soil at Kinsmen Park and using a hoe to carve a larger hope message at Little Red River Park.  He helped others creatively trim the lawn at Calvary United Church to spell out “HOPE”. Their message has survived through seven seasons, continuing to spread hope until it was buried in snow.

When the Canadian Cancer Society closed the Prince Albert office, he was given the Terry Fox Run materials along with the metre-high HOPE letters that had been used each year at Relay for Life.

He began to plant the HOPE sign at locations around the city where it was frequently photographed. 

The sign had been at the staff parking lot at Victoria Hospital when a blizzard destroyed it. Our Hope Guy asked Markit Signs to fix the sign and they created a whole new sign, free of charge.

During the summer he began to paint “hope” on palm-sized stones and some smaller “pocket” stones.  He placed the stones along the driveway at care homes, seniors’ apartments and the hospital. He was pleased that the stones at the hospital staff entrance disappeared rapidly because “these health workers are our true heroes.” Making and giving away “hope” has given him hope for his own journey.

The Hope Guy heard stories of “incredible connections.” People told him how his hope stones arrived at just the right time to encourage them. His hope stones have gone to seven provinces and as far away as Texas. “Hope spreads… I hear stories of the stones giving hope at the right time.”

As the pandemic drags on, he continues to spread hope. Earlier this month he stomped down the snow to create a HOPE sign on a hillside in a small city park. It’s the third time he has created the sign there.

Why does he continue to work so hard to create signs of hope?

“Hope is something the whole world could use right now… We need it more now than ever.”

— Each year during Advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas), I challenge myself to write columns on the Advent themes. The first Advent theme is hope.