Every year I fill out my NCAA basketball tournament brackets in hopes that I will win one of the friendly pools in which I participate.  I am not alone in this.  Millions of people are doing the same thing all across the country this week.  Each of us are trying to predict the winner of 63 different games that will be played over the next two and a half weeks.  While I do hope that my bracket will be a winner, I have another secret hope as well.  Each year I have this secret hope that maybe I will be the one person that will predict all 63 games of the tournament correctly.   No one ever accused hope of being rational.  In this case, the power of my hope is much greater than the power of rationality.

Do you know what the odds are of picking all 63 games correctly in the NCAA basketball tournament?  There are two teams in each of the 63 games, and therefore two different possible outcomes for each of those games.  This means the odds of choosing all 63 games correctly are 1 in 2 ^ 63 (2 to the 63rd power).  This computes to a rather large number!  To be exact, the odds of picking all 63 games correctly are 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808.  That’s right–one in nine quintillion, two hundred and twenty-three quadrillion, three hundred and seventy-two trillion, thirty-six billion, eight hundred and fifty-four million, seven hundred and seventy-five thousand, eight hundred and eight.

The fact that I know these odds and still hope this will be the year that I fill out a perfect bracket speaks to me of the irrepressible power of hope.  In fact, I believe this is in large part what people love about the NCAA college basketball tournament.  There is always the irrational hope that a weaker, lower seeded team will “against all odds” upset a much higher seeded, heavily favored team and win the tournament.  Will this be the year that for the first time ever a sixteenth seeded team upsets a number one seeded team?  And don’t we all love to watch a player attempt a game winning shot from half court just as time is expiring on the clock?  For a moment, time seems to pause, as everyone waits to see if, against all odds, the impossible looking shot just might go in.  We stay tuned hoping for the unexpected to happen and for one shining moment we take great delight when the unexpected does occur.

I believe we find such joy in the unexpected coming to pass because it inspires us to keep hoping in our own lives, even when doing so seems irrational.  The power of hope is the spirit that fuels all great endeavors.  The power of hope is what inspires mere mortals to overcome incredible odds.  Hope is what every new relationship, every new endeavor, and every new possibility possesses in abundance.  Hope is what every relationship or endeavor that seems impossible needs most to grow.  Hope is probably then the greatest gift we can give to one another.

Perhaps there is a particular challenge in your life right now about which you are  feeling discouraged.  Is there still a tiny spark of hope though that things can be different, that you can overcome the challenge and create the outcome you desire?  If so, blow on that spark.  Believe in that spark.  Ask for support from others and let them blow on that spark with you.    Ask for help from the One who is the Source of all hope.  Go ahead and take the half court shot. Go ahead and believe you can win, in spite of what the “experts” or your critics might say.  Most importantly, be sure to show up and play your best game you can play.

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