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Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Meaning of “Hope”

On the week of our flagship gala celebrating our work with Haitian families, we’re working hard to ensure that people come away from the experience Saturday night with insight into the lives of the poor. It’s a good time to reflect on the essence of our mission.

These words, from HOPE Myamnar colleague David Tegenfeldt, are a rich reflection on the meaning of ‘hope’—both the word and the organization we are a part of:

“Commonly today, people use the term “hope” to express a wish, desire, or something they dream of. However, if we look at the Indo-European root of the word “hope” and at the Hebrew and Greek equivalents of the word “hope”, we get a somewhat different understanding of the word than how it is used in common parlance.

The Indo-European root of the word “hope” is the same root from which the word “curve” (to bend) comes from. Therefore, the root of the word “hope” gives us the connotation of a change in direction; going in a different way.

The Hebrew and Greek equivalent of our English word “hope” has the meaning of a strong and confident expectation. This meaning stands in contrast to “wishful thinking.”

Putting the Indo-European root and the Hebrew and Greek equivalent together, yields a meaning of the word “hope” as a confident expectation that a desirable change is likely to happen.


Percy Shelley, the 19th century romantic poet, in talking about “the moral imagination” said, “a man to be greatly good must imagine clearly, he must see himself and the world through the eyes of another and of many others.”

At HOPE International Development Agency, we engage in action which sparks and grows “hope” in the hearts and minds of vulnerable communities so that they can bring positive change to their lives and their futures. This positive change is both physical (i.e. reducing material poverty) and relational (i.e. transforming how individuals and communities see and relate to one another). Of equal importance is to spark the “moral imagination” in each of us – to arise out of and to go beyond our ordinary selves. Together, we can live out our hope for a better world.”

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