Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Strength & hope April 18, 2023

The Straight River churns at the Morehouse Park dam in Owatonna. This image shows strength and power. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

WHAT’S YOUR DEFINITION of strength? Whom do you consider strong? Have you faced a challenge, or multiple challenges, in life that required strength? While our answers vary, especially on the third question, I expect threads of commonality in responses.

Strength, from my perspective, is about fortitude and endurance. It’s about somehow finding the ability to face a challenge, to persevere, to come out on the other side with a renewed sense of personal power. Not power in the sense of control, but power that reaffirms one’s ability to deal with whatever life throws at us.

Sometimes our lives can feel like random pieces of broken tile. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

We all have something, right? Financial hardships. Health issues. Loss. Pain. Family members who are struggling. But, admittedly, when we are in the middle of a lot, it can sometimes feel like we are alone, that others live perfect lives unencumbered by issues that drain, stress and, yes, sometimes overwhelm. Nothing could be further from the truth. I repeat: We all have something, whether individually or within our families. We are not alone.

Book cover source: Goodreads

The novel, Three Sisters by Heather Morris, prompted me to write on the topic of strength. Although fictional, the book is based on a true story about three sisters held in a concentration camp. This is a story of indescribable atrocities witnessed and experienced. This is also a story of irrepressible strength and hope. I encourage you to read this novel and also watch Ken Burns’ documentary, “The U.S. and the Holocaust,” which happened to air at the same time I was reading the book. Together, the two were almost too much for me to emotionally take in. It’s a lot to comprehend the inhumanity and cruelty of mankind. Those sent to concentration camps certainly exhibited strength, whether they survived or not.

An iris. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

In reading Three Sisters, I learned that gladiolus (the flower) signifies strength. And the iris, which is part of the glad family, denotes hope. The iris was my mom’s favorite flower. “Hope” is a word I’ve held, and continue to hold, close. “Hope” is not simply a wish. By my definition, it is an active verb that focuses on light shining through darkness. It is a word, too, that envelopes gratitude and believing that things will get better.

My mom gave me this name plaque many years ago. I keep it on my desk. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

My name, Audrey, means noble and strong. I wish I’d asked my mom why she chose that name for me, her first-born daughter. I never did, and now she’s gone. But the name fits. I’ve had to be strong many times throughout my life. We all have something, right? Challenges can make us better, more empathetic and compassionate people. That is the good that arises from struggles.

Photographed at the Northfield Public Library. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

I consider, especially, mental health challenges. From anxiety to depression to brain disorders like bi-polar and schizophrenia, these are undeniably hard diagnoses which require incredible strength to face. Simply getting up in the morning, functioning, can prove difficult. There are no cures. No quick fixes. Medication can manage, therapy can help. And even though we are getting better at recognizing and understanding, stigma remains. We can do better at supporting, encouraging, helping. We need more mental health professionals to meet the growing demand for mental health care.

Strength. Hope. Those two words inspire and uplift. Gladiolus and iris. Those two flowers represent the same. From the pages of a novel about three Holocaust survivors to my name to life experiences, I understand what it means to be strong, to feel hope.

TELL ME: I’d like to hear your thoughts on strength and hope.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


20 Responses to “Strength & hope”

  1. This book has been on my list for a long time but I needed a break from historical novels for a bit. Have only heard great things about it.

    Hope is also an active verb for me. Without it—- just can’t imagine.

    • I understand the need to break from reading certain books. I was on a streak of reading about the Holocaust and then, emotionally, needed to take a pause. So important to read, though.

      Yes, I can’t imagine life without hope either.

  2. I am a BIG Believer in BUILDING one another than BREAKING one another. 🙂 Hope is like breathing and learning and is oh so important to living and journeying along. Strength is a whole being aspect from the mental to the physical to the emotional to the spiritual. My Grandmother told me that the man upstairs gives us just enough to handle even when it starts to feel overwhelming at times. I am learning to communicate more especially in asking for help, support, and guidance (we are not mind readers). There are days I feel like I need a whole lot of patience too and I am so not a patient person. I also know I am a better person if I do for me and then in resetting, recharging, etc. I can give my time to being of service to others (think about the oxygen mask on the plane). GREAT Post Today – oh so NEEDED! Happy Day – Take Care – Enjoy

    • Your grandma was a wise woman. Your comment summarizes well how we can effectively journey through life’s struggles. And, yes, strength encompasses the whole being. I have many dear friends going through some really rough stuff right now. Our group has circled to encourage and support one another. I feel incredibly blessed to have such a strong support system. And my faith. Thank you for all you do for others and for taking care of your personal well-being.

    • When the going gets rough nice to have that strong support system. I know you have been dealing with a lot as I have. There are days I want to scream, go through a box of tissues, curl up to rest, and the worst one is when you just feel numb (that is when I know I need my support system). It is such a blessing to have those people that get you through it and come out stronger together too. Oh so grateful for that!

      • Renee, I’m sorry you’re dealing with a lot right now also. But I’m thankful you have a strong support system. That helps so much. As does crying. I had a major meltdown on Sunday. I started vestibular rehab therapy today and have a fantastic therapist who listens, answers my questions, explains and is thoroughly invested in helping me.

      • Great news on finding a therapist that you click with and that is invested in helping you out – Wonderful news – WISHING YOU THE BEST – Take Care (((((loveandhugs))))))

      • Thank you, Renee. I didn’t like him so much for a moment yesterday when he had to perform a test which left me crying dizzy. But it was necessary to determine if I had something else going on. I don’t. The original diagnoses of vestibular neuronitis stands with no additions. I’m thankful for that. My therapist is exceptional in every way. Thank you for your love and hugs.

  3. You are so right that everyone has something in their life that requires strength. The way I find strength is through practicing gratitude; there’s nothing quite like it to remind me what’s working and what’s good around here. The real challenge to maintain it is when another kid gets shot or another war flares up or a group of people is targeted for their differences. Then the question of what to do feels bigger than I can handle, until I remember small actions have big consequences. Small actions that we can all manage – that’s the active form of hope.

    • I like your approach of gratitude and also of focusing on small actions, what we can individually do. Like you, I feel overwhelmed by another war, another shooting, more violence and discrimination that just goes on and on. And nothing ever changes. I am beyond weary, frustrated and sick of it.

  4. Sometimes hope is all there is and we can find strength in that. ❤

  5. beth Says:

    I think strength is continuing on even in the face of very difficult challenges of all kinds. throughout my life, I’ve had a few very big challenges and knew I would get through them, not how, but somehow. onward. I love the plaque that your mother gave you.

    • I like that approach of “not how, but somehow, onward.” You are so right on that. And, yes, I treasure that name plaque, especially now that Mom is gone. She bought these name plaques for everyone in the family at some point. Such a thoughtful, personal gift.

  6. It is amazing the endurance each of us has within us whenever things get to be too much. I was told once that we are always preparing for the next hard thing. That seemed to me a stupid hopeless statement at the time when what I thought I needed was empathy or compassion but in reality it spoke to the internal strength we are always cultivating to manage through difficult times. Spread some kindness in the World so others can capture some hope and get some strength. 🌷❤️😇

  7. Mary Taylor Says:

    Every year I chose a word to be my “word of the year”. A few years ago I chose the word “hope” because it instills promise of good things to come. It’s light in the darkness. I love the word hope so much I haven’t chosen another word of the year since then. When life seems overwhelming hope always shines through. It provides strength and a positive prospective of the future. Hope provides me with the strength to carry on…

  8. Valerie Says:

    My name, Valerie, also means strong.
    Hope is everything…a good word for every day.

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