Hope Is For Times of Uncertainty

By Myriam Shehata, OTN Intern


On Tuesday afternoon, as the last voters made their ways to the polls, Lindsey, Kathryn, and I took to canvassing: to find new camps and to see how our friends are doing and what they need as they anticipate winter.

It wasn’t until we circled our way back to head home three and a half hours later that I realized what a tiny little sliver of the city we had covered—we tried to spend a few minutes talking to everyone we found, but we had found tons of campsites and many more likely locations that we just didn’t have time to check. And we were only looking for new camps! In the likely spots, the locations that Lindsey knew we might have some luck finding people—behind train tracks, under bridges, in quiet woods—even these were full of new faces, folks who were new to town or new to this side of the country—folks who, for so many reasons had to pick up and relocate.

I’m a little surprised it took me this long to realize, but on Tuesday it hit me just how much our friends on the streets have to live on the move, continuously looking for better, and just how many of them find themselves so often in unknown and uncertain places, sometimes alone, forced to keep some kind of hope in the face of it all.

This capacity for hope overwhelmed me, because not too much reflection showed me that I am very good at having expectations and much worse at having hope.

I had expectations about a lot of things that happened this week. Starting from the minute I wake up each morning, I have anticipations and expectations of what the day will have in store. That Tuesday, I had expectations about how many people we would find in the woods. I had expectations about the limits of poverty and suffering in our city. And I surely had expectations about how Tuesday night would go. Of course, my expectations are not always so off the mark, but it’s when I found myself with expectations shattered that I realized how much I had been at a loss for hope—real hope. The kind of hope that acknowledges uncertainty and danger and fear and persists anyway. The kind that doesn’t depend on crystal clear skies and a wide safety net below. The kind that moves you to action, not to closing your eyes, crossing your fingers, and wishing for everything to return to what you’ve always known.

As we struggle to come to terms with all the changes in our city and our country, I keep coming back to the hope that our friends must carry with them as they pack up and relocate, always imagining something better. My prayer for the days and months to come is that in times of disappointment, anxiety, even shame, I may come to focus on and actively work towards the hope of our friends, a hope that we ultimately share: hope for a stronger, more inclusive, and more supportive community. Hope that we can come together and take part in the work of making this vision of justice a reality.