Dolores is an actress and story performer, whose work has been featured at a variety of concerts, festivals, and special events throughout the U.S. She is a gardener and a champion of Joy. (CDs of original stories here)
I had recently been to her performance of the one-woman play Becoming Dr. Ruth. (Did you know Ruth Westheimer was an orphan of the Holocaust? Her parents and grandmother perished in a German concentration camp during WWII.) As I watched the play, I was reminded of how Dolores is always able to envelop an audience in the evocative cloak of other worlds. I was riveted by the atmosphere of inspiration she created on stage that is obviously prevalent throughout Westheimer’s life. I knew that I needed to talk to Dolores about Hope.
When we sat down to talk about the Hope Project, I explained that I am not just interested in talking to people who are hopeful, but also those who may have lost all hope. My thought is that we may understand even more if we knew how someone had lost all hope. When I said that to Dolores, she asked,
“If people are without hope, how do they get out of bed in the morning? How do they keep going forward?”
After I told her one of the many stories of Hope I have encountered, she stopped me and said,
“My word for what keeps me going forward is Joy. I don’t call it Hope. It’s that feeling of exaltation and gratitude, that moment of saying to myself, how fortunate I am. I live in a beautiful place, there are people in this world who love me, I get to do work I love to do… I can’t explain why I’ve been so fortunate, but I am, and there’s great joy in acknowledging the small blessings I encounter every day. It’s that mystery that keeps me going.
“There is so much ugliness, so much that is crass and vulgar, crude and cynical, in the world, and we notice that. We talk about it, and you can’t get away from it. It’s in the news – it’s everywhere. But there are also reminders of what is beautiful and noble and joyful in the human spirit. And if we don’t stop and look at those we’ll think they’re not there.
It’s so easy to see the desperate and the cynical and the bleak. God knows there is plenty of that. But if someone like me is allowed to live in the light – with so much to be joyful about all around me – then maybe it’s my responsibility to reflect that light back. That’s what I try to do with my stories. They say teachers teach what they need to learn, and I think storytellers tell what they need to hear. And the stories I need to hear are stories of hope, beauty, possibilities, forgiveness … the things that are reasons to be joyful despite the darkness of the world.”
Dolores reminds me of what Kathryn Tucker Windham (one of our greatest storytellers) said in her book Twice Blessed. Ms. Windham said she was “twice blessed: She was happy and she knew it.”
Dolores tells me that she feels twice blessed, too, grateful for her good life and the chance to tell stories of Joy and Hope.