No plan, no matter how inspired or supported by the masses, can survive a lack of hope.
The tragedies our neighbors in Buffalo and in Uvalde experienced are another example of how in the face of loss, hope is the hardest virtue to maintain. But our destiny is still combined. The fate of the oppressed is, unfortunately, inextricably linked to that of those who’d see us fail. Hope in that moment is as important as ever.
It’s not lost on me that asking for hope in the face of trauma can often feel like far too much to ask. But when we know thoughts and prayers are not enough, hope and action are prime levers for change.
The ambition we embarked upon to erect ConnCAT Place, a first-of-its-kind development in New Haven’s Dixwell neighborhood, is an example of the need for such hope.
When I consider examples of hope throughout our city, I think of my visit to a food distribution center last year to make a donation of goods. The women, who labored with care and courage, were volunteers who believed in the mission of that work: to ensure the hungry had nourishment, even if only for a couple days.
During that visit, which shouldn’t have made an impression any more than my other visits, I noticed the rhythm of movement created by people closing in on the food tables from all directions. That seemingly chaotic swarm would soon become a single file “bread line” where goods were placed in boxes, packaged to the brim, and handed to the needy.
When we stand in these deeply human moments, observing how poverty forces us to be controlled by our basic needs – hungry, shelter, and safety – it’s impossible not to notice the emotion on every person’s face. Those expressions revealed determination and longing on the faces of the volunteers and a similar but nuanced expression on the faces of the receivers. Both were bound by an abiding sense of hope.
It is often stated that hope is not a plan — indeed it is not. But having been a servant-leader of the people for more than two decades, I know no plan survives without hope.
Hope is the powerful mediator between life in scarcity, and life in abundance – the bridge between “being” and “becoming.”
Hope is a common denominator between the impoverished and privileged. Both are secretly hoping to be in relationship with one another, instinctively knowing and understanding that their coming together literally means the saving of their lineage, thus the world. We have a common destiny, and achieving that destiny requires mutual hope.
This sometimes insurmountable tension is where hope becomes a burden. In this sense, hope tantalizes and almost dares folks to choose between self-preservation and self-discovery. While self-preservation will affirm one’s current identity and signifies safety, self-discovery ushers one into imperfection, demanding you betray your beliefs in merit, superiority, or inferiority.
This burden of hope reveals that we – no matter race, class, or culture – are all suffering from one thing or another—often the same thing.
That similar yet nuanced burden carried by both the systemically privileged and the strategically oppressed is the same parallelism I saw at the bread line. Two groups of people – the haves and the have-nots – meeting to exchange goods is a dynamic that has stood the test of time. All the while, it was a lack of hopeful imagination that kept the have-nots from converting easily towards having.
Ideal or not, it’s clear to me that our redemption is wrought from our collective hope and enduring love.
Yes – it’s true that plans cannot survive without hope. But hope, in our deeply flawed society, cannot survive without love.
In our communities, we grieve incidents of Buffalo and Uvalde every other day. When I see our tear-shocked brothers and sisters who’ve lost loved ones to white supremacy, I think about what we need in our communities here. Now more than ever we need hope — but certainly not hope alone.
The work we do to support and strengthen our community is rooted in a deep unwavering love for its members. And as we work to build something that has the potential to change lives for generations to come, I know it’s boundless love that will sustain our desire to hope, and subsequently our ability to plan.
Hope makes one move, while love guides…
Erik Clemons is the CEO of ConnCORP.