By Heather Reynolds, Managing Director
I was on a call with a Notre Dame benefactor, sharing the LEO story. “I have one more question to ask you,” she said. “What gives you hope?” Hope. One of my favorite words. Hard to describe, but we understand it when we experience it. I thought her question was an interesting one, given the year we’ve all had. What does give me hope, especially now?
As we enter this holiday season—one that may look quite different for many of us—I think of my all-time favorite Christmas song, O Holy Night. I listen to this song often, and drive my family nuts because I play it regardless of the season. (Hello, July!) One of the best presents I ever received was from a friend who made me a CD of 12 versions of O Holy Night. (And if you’re wondering, the best version is Tracy Chapman’s). My favorite line in the song: The thrill of hope, a weary world rejoices.
The thrill of hope. Thrill—a tremor of excitement. If you love roller coasters like me, think of how the pit of your stomach feels as the roller coaster climbs the big hill, and the thrill—that tremor of excitement—that takes over you as you rush down. And then, the word hope—to expect with confidence and to cherish a desire with anticipation. The thrill of hope: that tremor of excitement that you confidently expect something to happen and cherish it with anticipation.
So then, what gives me hope? I start humming O Holy Night as I think of the roller coaster ride that our service provider partners are on with those that they serve, embedding hope into every corner of their relationship. Why? Because the world is weary. And our partners want this weary world, and the people they serve, rejoicing. They want the people who so often come to them in despair to experience something different—a thrill of hope, the promise of a future outside of poverty.
And so I told that thoughtful and sensitive benefactor that LEO’s partners give me hope. Eric from Fort Worth, who seeks to make life different for the veterans his organization serves, and wants to better understand what moves them forward in their treatment. Bill in Maryland, who—as a former convict himself—hopes for a nation where lives are restored, and is driven to understand how his organization can be a part of that restoration for people caught up in the criminal justice system. Sandee, who works hard every day in Chicago to give youth a future in the tech industry so they can live a life outside of poverty, and wants to see if her organization’s program does the trick.
Eric, Bill, Sandee, and so many others, on the front lines of a very difficult year and as our nation’s economic crisis disproportionately impacts the poor, are still coming to the table, building evidence to understand what works in this fight against poverty. As I talk to partners across the nation, I am filled with hope that we can move the needle on ending poverty. Not because of wishful thinking, but because of the hope that they create through innovative service, and the evidence that they deeply desire to build to understand what works to lift lives up.
This holiday season, I pray that you are met with the thrill of hope—that feeling in the pit of your stomach, a tremor of excitement, a spirit of anticipation. My hope is that wherever you are and whatever you are doing, you are rejoicing. Hope is the “memory of the future.” My hope is that as we look ahead to 2021, our minds and hearts are leaving behind a world of “what is” and working for a world of “what could be.”