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Connection #3: "You Can Defy the Odds."

We’ve all heard it, our lives are stories. Each day is a new chapter, a new opportunity, whatever phrase you want to put in here. It holds a great deal of truth, and it often feels good to know you have a story uniquely your own. But there comes a time when you have to let go of those stories, to see them for what they are, moments in the past, but not who you are.

This seems so easy to do, but, more often than not, we talk about it more than actually doing it. Some of us even become trapped by the stories we have woven. Not the events of our past, but the moments in the present, complete with their character traits and costuming, that we have made our truth. I’ve wrestled with this same thing since beginning 100 Connections a little over a year ago, this trap of what your story will be, of who you are, in the midst of a story composed by you and everything around you.

Hope Caldwell has the most amazing eyes, not in the sense of their color or their shape, but in the way that they see your stories, recognize them, but know they aren’t you. She has many of her own. Tales of triumph, of tragedy, of smiles, cries, and faith that would fill a thousand books, but they don’t do her justice.

You can feel her passion just by standing next to her. It’s as if an electrical current occupied the space the two of you share, originating from Hope and bouncing between the two of you. It’s impossible to not feel like you can change the world. Hope has made a habit of doing just that.

She tells me of her work, about building incredible events that change perspective, shift malaise into action for others, that humanize business. Her events are luxury affairs, because she wants people who can do good to do it, she believes the world can be better. We are not beyond saving. She is very much her name.

I’ve heard a lot of people tell me about their visions from God, about the changes they will make. They share stories of their purpose, and they always hit me strangely. I wonder how you can value only what was given, not what you had to discover, to shape, to earn from your heart.

Hope tells me about what was in her heart, what she learned from living, from her stories, and how she embarked to change the world. Her faith is incredible, she believes. It’s simple, pure, but not unearned, not without questions. Her vision was placed in her to be discovered, nurtured, and shared with the world.

We walk through Hampton Park, among the plants and the sun, swapping stories and smiles. I share mu cries, she shares hers, in perfect balance. But we know these stories are just moments in the past. The two people walking side by side are not the two people in those stories. If anything we are sequels, but it’s so much more than that. She tells me about how exciting, and scary, it is to realize that you are not your stories, that you are free to build new ones. I tell her about how I’ve struggled with just that, most recently deciding not to apply for a speaking event because I am much more than my story of overcoming depression.

She smiles a lot, as we talk about the stories we are currently writing; about her life, her family, her husband, her son, and her faith. I talk about Mary Ann, about my path to be a writer, just a writer, and the peace that I have found in this plain and simple path. Here among the songs of birds are also the echoes of laughter and excitement from two voices.

I’ve never met anyone quite like Hope. Her faith is so deeply rooted, from such an incredible place. I would say she will change the world, but she already has many times over. She doesn’t worry about whether or not that was the one thing that did it all, but rather she aims for the opportunity for change on another’s path, whether they take it or not. You and I could learn a lot from Hope Caldwell.

Our walk ends where it began. At a gazebo in the front of Hampton Park we talk about little wisdom, about getting coffee, future walks, and the day. As we part she says something that catches my ear and sticks in my heart.

“It’s good to know you.”

We go our separate ways from the gazebo in Hampton Park. Hope springs off to celebrate a friend’s birthday with breakfast. I wander the park for a few more moments, taking in the sun, the birds, the plants of Charleston, with all of these stories swirling in my head along with those final words. What a simple, yet amazing thing to say to someone. Especially someone you just met.

Hope knows you, knows me, because she seeks to. You have value in her eyes, as do all people. Your stories, the tales from your past, take a back seat, the past becomes pure prologue. There are thousands of things I could say about her, about her perception, about her spirits, but one poet said it better than I ever could over a century ago.

“Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,

You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions of suns left,)

You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,

You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,

You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.”

Thank you, Hope. It’s good to know you.

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