One of the things that I say around Here Hear is “Hope Wins!” This saying came up while I was talking to my then 6 year old son. I told him that there were times I felt really alone and he just drew me a sun and told me “Hope wins!” We even put it on a T-shirt. We thought that it was a good representation of what Here Hear is trying to do, which is give people hope, especially those that often have none.

However, can I tell you something? I don’t always believe that hope wins. It’s not always there. My life is not always “hopeful.” No, sometimes things go off the tracks and hope is hard to find.

So, I wanted to spend a few minutes just exploring hope.

The first thing about hope is that it is powerful. I watched the Obama campaign in 2008 pretty closely and actually helped canvas for him in Indiana. This is not to get political, but Obama built his entire campaign on hope, on Michelle’s famous phrase that “when they go low, [you] go high.” Obama worked very hard to use the message of hope that he was delivering to bring people together for a common cause, for the betterment of everyone. This is not to say that everyone bought in, although Obama did win in a significant way (he even won Indiana, which went overwhelmingly for Bush and Trump). The message of hope, though, could bring people together.

So, hope is something that brings people together. However, it is also strangely individual. While my hope may feed off your hope, like it did for many of us rooting for Obama, the fact is that no one can have hope for me. When I get to the depths of depression, when my world falls apart, when I start to become untethered from all the people around me, there is nothing anyone else can do to bring me hope. There may be conversations meant to remind me, but hope is uniquely mine in those moments. I cannot rely on the hope of anyone else. And where my hope is going, what I have hope will happen is uniquely mine.

This brings us to the question of what is hope. Because hope can come to me from being part of a community, yet it is also uniquely mine, but it also begs us to figure out what is this thing. And that’s the hard part. We hope. We hope and we know what that is, what that feels like. But when asked to describe hope, things get messier. It’s not really definable. The religious among us may say hope is always in the unseen, which is partly correct. But, hope does not need to be in the divine or some apocalyptic judgment. Hope can be unseen even when the atheist is the one being hopeful. I mean, the nature of hope is to believe something can be different, that the world and my life can be otherwise. This is not something based on evidence, but on our feelings and the desires we have for how we want to see the world.

But hope is not simply something unseen. It also builds and it deconstructs our own lives. When hope builds, it pulls us toward a new possibility for our future, for the life that we want to have. However, hope is not content enough with simply letting the future unfurl before you; hope also uses that future to deconstruct where you are right now. Hope takes apart and picks pieces and asks us to start living in the present in a way that our hopes are not just wishes, but expectations of something different, something otherwise.

And, hope wins because hope does not allow us to simply sit still, to simply lay in our present circumstances. Hope asks us to envision a new future and to live into that reality. It’s to envision something that we often cannot imagine, but that we really want and that those around us help us attain. Hope opens up new realities to us and it becomes our role to follow, to go into these new realities.