HOPE IS MANY THINGS

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It’s December. It’s been a disappointing year.

I wonder how many people in this world feel like they’ve arrived and have nothing more to want. There’s probably a small few, but for most of us, there’s a bit more we’re in pursuit of.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing necessarily. It doesn’t have to mean we’re ungrateful for what we already have. It just means there’s more to aspire to. There are hopes we have for the future. Even if we have everything we could ever want, there are probably some hopes we have for other people. Hopes we have for our world to become a better place for all.

There are lots of hopes that haven’t yet been fulfilled.

There’s a gap in between where we are and where we want to be. This was the year I expected that gap to close a little bit more.

Looking back, that didn’t happen.

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It’s January. We have the pleasure of hosting a good friend from Korea. We ironically tried to go out for Korean food, but instead wound up getting tacos. You can always count on tacos.

The year ahead looks bright. I think this is the year I might finally plant down some roots and regain a sense of connection that’s been missing for a few years. I think this would be the year of building things that last.

People— at least the people of the online worlds where I spend too much time, often pick a “word of the year,” a theme to guide a new chapter of their life.

I toy around with the idea of choosing the word “build.” I want this to be a year of making things, building a community, of new growth.

I’m about to be reminded why I usually choose a theme word at the end of the year instead. Expectations and reality often differ. Like Kierkegaard says, you’ve gotta live life forwards, but to understand it, you need to look at it backwards.

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It’s October. Over the past ten months, the year has tailspun into becoming a big disappointment.

It started out promising enough. Many of the things I hoped to start went absolutely nowhere. I started to feel more isolated than I’ve felt in a really long time. Then I ran into a stretch of a few weeks of getting one piece of bad news after another.

I’m anxious and angry, but most of all, just sad that my world feels so empty.

I get breakfast with an old friend. I haven’t seen her a whole lot since she moved to pursue a dream full-time. She introduces us to Southern style doughnuts and a local coffee roaster. I’ve been impressed by her skill as an artist and all the progress she’s made in that pursuit. She tells me that she’s recently had to confront the real question of what life looks like if her dream doesn’t come true.

It’s not an easy question, and I felt like I was in a similar place. There are few things more discouraging than doing the same thing over and over, without seeing much change. You start to feel trapped by your circumstances. You start catastrophizing.

It feels like the path I’ve been on for years has been good to me. It’s taken me on adventures, towards people. But lately, it feels like it led me right into a dead-end.

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Back to December. I know what my word will be for the year that has passed. It seems strange to say this after such a disappointing year, but that word will be hope.

I thought I already knew all there was to know about hope, but some things you can only learn through experience.

Right now, more than ever, I believe that hope and optimism aren’t the same thing.

I’ve never really had a hard time being optimistic, to be honest. Sometimes, that’s my method of dealing with hard stuff. I believe there’s a way for things to work out, and a good chunk of the time, I’m right. I tend to believe the best about the world, and the best about people.

But hope is something else entirely.

Hope is many things.

Hope is action. It looks like going where the love is.

Hope is faithfulness. It looks like staying on that path, even when it seems to have led to a dead end. It looks like sticking with the things you’ve said ‘yes’ to, because you still believe in them.

Hope is freedom. You realize that you aren’t in control, but and when you’re willing to let go of that illusion and to let God take the reins.

Hope is imagination. Hope is seeing things that don’t exist, and doing your part to bring them to life.

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It’s August, and I’m in Haiti for work. I’m walking through a pretty lush, green forest. A decade ago, I’m told, these hillsides were barren. Most of Haiti still looks that way.

The people I meet turned out to be my greatest teachers. Every single one of them could point to a time in their life, roughly ten years ago, and could tell me of how hopeless things seemed.

“My brother died and I couldn’t stop drinking,” one man tells me.

“In this country,” a woman tells me, “you wouldn’t get to reap what you sowed.”

“My hair was turning gray while I went from one relief agency to the next, looking for some help,” says her neighbor.

Their lives today are joyful. They all talked about the incredible transformation their area had seen. How it went from barren to green. How people went from desperate to invigorated- mobilized to start farming projects, to build cisterns, to start agricultural experiments.

What propels them forward wasn’t optimism. They didn’t have much of that. It was hope. Hope allowed them to wake up for another day with the slightest possibility that things could be different. Hope allowed them to still do whatever was in their power to make their land and lives better.

I feel the nudge from God. Take note.

Hope was something I really needed in my own life. The reminders to keep showing up in spite of discouragement. The notion that the pure and good things of this life are still worth pursuing, even when they seem out of reach.

Hope is also something our world needs pretty badly these days. There are so many people fighting for justice and equality. Progress isn’t linear, and setbacks seem frequent. But hope reminds us that its worth it to be on the right side, even if it doesn’t win every battle. Even if things seem to be getting worse.

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“Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure”

– Rumi

After all, I believe that our lives are the work of a master storyteller, and what good story doesn’t have some scenes where it looks like everything’s just gonna fall apart? Sometimes, the bleaker things look, the more satisfying the story becomes in the end.

Hope is something I really need in my own life. The reminders to keep showing up in spite of discouragement. The notion that the pure and good things of this life are still worth pursuing, even when they seem out of reach.

Hope is also something our world needs pretty badly these days. There are so many people fighting for justice and equality. Progress isn’t linear, and setbacks seem frequent. But hope reminds us that its worth it to be on the right side, even if it doesn’t win every battle. Even if things seem to be getting worse.

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It’s September, and I can’t stop listening to the War and Treaty’s new album. I buy a vinyl copy and read all the liner notes. I discover something written by Michael Trotter.

“When natural disasters or the pains of social injustice or brutalities of any kind threaten your own peace of mind and civility, remember this one thing: it’s not over yet. You still have time to not only see change but to be part of the change.”

There’s still time.

That’s something I often have a hard time believing. As somebody who feels the shortness of life, I’m driven to make the most out of every minute. But I choose to believe that there is still time. That God doesn’t waste time. That the long swaths of time that seem to amount to nothing are just as saturated in purpose as those whirlwinds of change.

And in the meantime, I choose not to still appreciate the little bits of good that came my way in the past year. Even though it didn’t go the way I thought it would, there were still many sparks of joy that helped keep things afloat.

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It’s March, and I’ve ran my second half marathon.

It’s April, and I’ve gotten to go back to Italy for the first time since I studied there as a college student.

It’s September, and I’m at a conference where I get to meet some of my favorite creative heroes.

It’s June, and we’re riding bikes in Vancouver.

It’s August, and I’ve made a new friend over coffee.

It’s February, and Moviepass exists.

It’s September, and I miss Moviepass.

It’s May, and I’ve found the sweetest campsite out in the middle of nowhere.

It’s March, and I finally get to fulfill my lifelong dream of visiting Iceland.

This hasn’t been the year I had anticipated. Looking back right now, it’s hard not to think of it as a disappointing one. But I do wonder how I might look back on it with more perspective. I wonder how I might look at it ten years down the road.

It’s very possible that such a dry season might have been necessary to set up the things to come. It’s also possible that things can get worse before that happens. But hope always plays the long game.

In the meantime, I choose hope. Hope is a choice.

Hope is many things.










Philippe Lazaro