What is hope?

Hope is a belief in action. It is an active word that empowers people to do something toward desired change.

At the end of 2022, I was one of 60 coaches to travel to Papua New Guinea on a service trip where we facilitated a process called “Transformation Tables.” A complete Transformation Table experience is a six to 12 week program where people gather to learn positive values and how to live them. During our time together, we discussed value words to help leaders think differently about the principles that guide their decisions and actions.

In one week, we connected with 1,400-plus Papua New Guineans in five cities. The value word we began with during the Transformation Table was “hope.”

The people there have great hope. However, it is missing a spark. They believe that a better life is possible because they read stories in the Bible, history books and TikTok videos, but they rarely see an opportunity to create a better life in their community. Their hope is built from these stories and others’ pasts.

I can empathize with my Papua New Guinea friends. When I lack an opportunity to feel confident in my abilities, I lean on the stories of others. I often think, “If someone else can find success, then I can, too.”

However, belief without action can create frustration. What action do I need to take to find success?

One morning, in Kokopo, Papua New Guinea, I facilitated a table with a group of women. These women spoke of stress and frustration when thinking about all the responsibilities they encounter day-to-day. A single mother with five young boys, a minister’s wife who feels the burden of her husband and a local leader hoping to run for a political office in an upcoming election. These women believe change is needed and possible. However, they do not know what they can do to make a difference.

I saw a spark ignite in them during our Transformation Table. I gave them a booklet defining 12 value words and showed them how enjoyable it is to facilitate a table that promotes thinking differently. I recommended these women lead a table with their friends and family members. Their eyes lit up as they saw their vision of hope transform into reality.

Augustine of Hippo was a philosopher and bishop who believed humans are morally responsible for their actions. He described hope as having, “Two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”

While in Papua New Guinea, I felt anger and frustration from my local friends. Anger at resources they’re denied, like fresh water, the build-up of garbage on their streets and beaches and their government for not creating services and opportunities to better their country.

I am honored to also witness their courage build. Courage to think differently about their influence, empower their friends and family members to think about their values and introduce their neighbors to a new idea of Transformation Tables.

As I begin 2023 and consider what I hope this year brings, I think about the action I need to take to make it happen. It might be easier than I imagine it to be. It might be simple conversations where I share authentic and vulnerable ideas. Think differently, take action and watch hope come to life.