What is Hope?

Written for the Night of Hope 2019

What is HOPE?



What does hope LOOK like?

It looks like people showing up together, day after day, week after week, year after year in houses, in parks, in libraries, in churches, in the YWCA of Cleveland, at bowling alleys, and ice cream parlors, and movie theaters, and on and on.

It looks like being seen--sometime for the first time--- and loved and accepted exactly as you are for exactly who you are.

It looks like a hug and a smile between friends who are becoming family.

It looks like a dream come true, that maybe—just maybe—there really are people who will do what they say they will do.

It looks like someone running out of jail after being released into the arms of people who believed in him and fought for his freedom for 123 days.

It looks like a diverse family---different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different races and religions---coming together with a shared purpose to love one another. 


What does hope SOUND like?

It sounds like laughter around a table over a game or an ice breaker.

It sounds like the crunching of leaves on the ground during a group hike in the woods.

It sounds like plates clinking together as they are piled in a sink after a fabulous meal together.

It sounds like the turn signal of a car and the encouragement of a mentor as a young person learns to drive for the first time.

It can sometimes sound like conflict and frustration because all of us are messy.

It sounds like the words “I am sorry” and “I messed up” on repeat, followed by the words “I forgive you” and “I messed up too”.

It sounds like the Happy Birthday song being sung to a young person by their community—celebrating another year of life together.

It sounds like a quiet, nervous voice of a young person opening up about her life story and her community quietly, purposely holding space for her to be who she is and share what has happened to her over the years.

It sounds like a reunion when someone comes back after being gone for a few weeks. 

It sounds like a party where everyone talks all at one time with excitement and energy when they celebrate what being together means to each person present.

It sounds like a newborn babies first cry, being welcomed into the world surrounded by love.

It sounds like heartbreak and grief, as we mourn the loss of loved ones, cry through diagnoses, and show up when there is a break up.

It sounds like the words “we love you and are with you---no matter what”.


What does hope FEEL like?

It feels like a shift in the story.  A new chapter, a blank page, a fresh start.

It feels like what was once thought to be impossible, is gradually, step-by-step possible because ME is now WE.

It feels like a space where aspirations and dreams can and do come true.

It feels like belonging and peace and security.

It feels like the beginning of healing.

It feels holy and sacred and reflective of the grace of God.

It feels like letting go of the belief that the past could have been any different.

It feels like I am enough because of who I am, not what I have or haven’t done.

If feels like a breaking of generational cycles of pain and regret because I choose a different life for myself and my children.

It feels too good to be true.

It feels scary and vulnerable and difficult to trust that I won’t be judged.

It feels like rest and restoration. 

It feels like freedom to thrive.

It feels like a different city when I have a community. 

It feels like I belong here, like I am important, like I am necessary, like I have a place in the world, like I have a purpose.

It feels like dignity restored.

Most importantly it feels like love.


Amber Donovan