From the Letters of E.B. White: “Hang on to Your Hope”

Beloved author E. B. White responds to a letter he received predicting a grim future for humanity.

North Brooklin, Maine
30 March 1973

Dear Mr. Nadeau,
As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

hat and clock
Dan Winters for Reader’s Digest

Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society—things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.

Sincerely,
E. B. White

A noted essayist, White wrote Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little and coauthored The Elements of Style. He died in 1985.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest