According to Wikipedia, hope is "an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one's life or the world at large."
In times when life is difficult, hope can often be hard to come by. A lack of hope leads to despondency, to depression, to a poorer state of mind. This is even more so in times of crisis - during wars or, like now, during pandemics.
Over the past year, as coronavirus spread around the world killing millions and making many more sick, hope has been hard to find. Our lives have been put on hold, our dreams and ambitions dashed. Many have, and continue to, question whether things will get better. And with this, it becomes natural to find hope in the most obscure of places.
One truly unforeseen obscure place was found last Spring in a humble 99 year old war veteran, previously only famous to the wider public for a brief appearance on Terry Wogan's last outing as host on Blankety Blank.
In April 2020, Captain Tom Moore had recently recovered from cancer, and a broken hip. Jokingly he set himself a challenge to try and raise £1000 for the NHS charities as a thank you, by walking up and down his garden with his walking aid one hundred times before he turned 100.
His story hit a nerve, first with locals, then with people across the nation, and then across the whole world as they looked for hope during a long lockdown. It wasn't just the cause he was fundraising for, but his personality, his attitude, and, as an elder who had been through crisis before, his optimistic hope he gave to all.
His catchphrase became "Tomorrow will be a good day". His glimmer of hope was what the country needed. Within weeks his £1000 had become (with gift aid) almost £40 million, shared amongst 250 NHS charities.
He became the modern day war hero - the humble hero of our war against a virus. He gave us hope that, even when times are tough, you can make a difference. The accolades came in: a knighthood, a rare gold Blue Peter Badge, an RAF fly past, an England Cap, an Honorary Colonel, a Number One Record (itself a song of hope).
This morning I looked out of my home office window, and an old man who lives nearby was walking slowly as he does every day, with his stroller for balance. It reminded me of Captain Tom, and also of a hymn by Sydney Carter, One More Step Along the World I Go. In part of one verse it says:
As I travel through the bad and good,
Keep me travelling the way I should.
Where I see no way to go,
You'll be telling me the way, I know.
Captain Tom has been that person, telling us the way with every step of his 100 laps, giving us hope. Both the old man outside my house and Sir Tom show us the war-time spirit to carry on that we need - the hope we seek.
Yesterday, Captain Sir Tom Moore passed away, the latest victim of COVID-19. And while the nation is sad at his passing, just a few months short of his 101st birthday, even in death he is giving us hope. Young and old alike have been inspired by his actions and his words. His legacy will live for many, many years.
My thoughts are with those who were close to him, as they are with everyone who has lost someone during this pandemic. His family will have nothing but pride for a man who gave us joy, and a glimmer of hope when there appeared to be none.
And Sir Tom is right. Tomorrow will be a good day. A vaccine programme that has seen almost one million people inoculated in a single weekend is under way.
As I write, the number of new daily cases is falling sharply across the UK. There is hope. It just took an old man in the final year of his life for us to realise it.
As the man himself said, "For all those finding it difficult, the sun will shine again and the clouds will go away."
Thank you, Sir Tom, for giving us hope. Rest easy now. The world salutes you.