Sitting here on my desk with me today is a little stuffed teddy bear named Fred. Fred has spent the year with me. He spends every odd-numbered year with me. On the even-numbered years he goes to Vermont, where he lives with a dear friend who I used to work with in Michigan.
Fred is getting ready for his annual transit. I honestly cannot remember how many times he has traveled between Snobville, NJ and Snowville, VT.
I have not seen my friend who lives in Snowville since we both left Michigan in 1987. She moved to Vermont about the same time I moved to New Jersey. (Yes, she did get the better end of the location, but it's been tough finding work up that way).
For many years my friend and I were bosom buddies, both happily working from home for a company that produced encyclopedias. We commiserated as changes occurred in our freelancing activities. We conferred on projects. We talked about our hopes for our children, who are about the same age, and our difficulties making ends meet.
Then the bottom dropped out on the encyclopedia company. I went off to teach school, and my friend took courses in medical transcription. I believe I've had one email from her this year.
But I've had Fred. And now my friend will have Fred.
As he passes from one home to the other, from New Jersey to Vermont, year after year, he holds with him a little sign that says "smile" ... and also holds out the hope that the two women who touch him, and love him, will some day be able to achieve their goal of going to Assateague Island together to see the wild ponies. Fred is keeping hope alive.
There are no doubt many magickal practices, backed by tradition and scholarly knowledge, that are intended to produce or protect hope where it is flagging. But if someone were to ask me how to bolster hope, I would just say to buy a small teddy bear and keep passing it from yourself to the friend you want some day to see, the friend who you hope is happy and prosperous and healthy.
Fred isn't just a stuffed animal. He's a talisman whose potential has yet to be tapped. I bid him Godsspeed to Vermont, where he will embrace my friend for me. As I kiss Fred good-bye, I will whisper into his ear about a long, sandy beach with wild ponies splashing in the surf. And Fred will hear. And it will happen.