H is for Hope
I met my friend Hope through a book. It was Christian fiction and she wrote it. Her characters befriended me. I wanted to keep hanging out with them long after the book was over. So I wrote to Hope.
This was long before I had a Twitter, LinkedIn or even a Facebook account. I wrote a draft of the letter I wanted to send on lined yellow paper. I still have those pages. Early in the morning, I took the bus to college, went into the computer lab, carefully copied the text into an email and sent it to Hope. I didn’t expect a response.
I checked my email before I left school, as I often did. I logged into the desktop computer with my credentials. I didn’t carry a device that kept me connected to email during class or in the halls. I had a laptop, but it was heavy and I didn’t like carrying it around all day.
My heart skipped a beat as I realized that Hope had returned my email. I wrote her right back.
That first email exchange was the beginning of a correspondence and friendship that has lasted 8 years (and counting).
Recently, I went back and read those first messages. It’s amazing to see how little we’ve changed. We’re more at home with one another, but even then, our hearts came through, we write versions of those emails even now.
Hope and I have walked together through many things, hard and happy. I’ll tell you a few of the stories that are mine to tell.
I poured out all of my writing dreams to Hope. When I reached out to her, I was writing Christian fiction (which is what I did all through college). I shipped her a copy of my first cover story for my college newspaper. When I became frustrated with writing, she encouraged me, but also encouraged me to rest. She was one of the first people I told when I started as a food writer four years ago. She has never given up on the book that I’ve been writing (which has morphed so very many times over the years). I still text her every time something good happens in my writing life (and when I struggle with rejection and self-esteem, too).
Hope has listened to me through every single romantic relationship I’ve ever had. She has been enthusiastic and thoughtful with her questions (in my last relationship she asked me to describe him to her in 5 words). When my relationships have ended, she is prayerful and kind, but also deeply wise. I have never forgotten what she said to me after I broke up with my first love: “maybe it was a lot more work than it should have been?” Those words have followed me through one relationship after another, becoming a guide for walking forward, or veering off alone.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the midst of something hard or momentous and received an email or a text from Hope at just the right time. Her heart is with spiritual direction and I think that she’s been practicing on me for a while. She sits close enough to God that they can play telephone together.
When we met in person for the first time, it was just after my birthday. It had been such a disappointing day for me and Hope knew that. She reclaimed my birthday as no one else could, beginning with a glass of Anam Cara Pinot Noir. That night, she gave me a poster from our beloved band, Over the Rhine’s “The World Can Wait Tour.” Hope knows that I’m always wanting to run ahead. She knew I needed a reminder that the world can wait. I hung it above my bed and every time I see it, I grin.
This April, we met to have lunch before I was set to be at a conference. Though Hope expected to have a nice simple lunch, she ended up witnessing the death of my car’s starter. We had lunch, but then we called roadside assistance, negotiated battery-buying at Costco, and wrung our hands when it didn’t work. She wrote down the names of the men who had helped us and stood with me as they took large, loud tools to my car, trying to get the starter to turn. When we abandoned my car in the Costco parking lot, she made sure I had a ride back to my hotel. Even then, we knew it was going to be a good story. There is no one I’d rather have car trouble with.
It is easy to doubt that consistent presence is of use. When I am tempted in that direction I think about Hope. She could have chosen to treat my email like any other fan letter, but she didn’t. She has encouraged me, challenged me, prayed for me, and advocated for me more than I can say. I only hope that our friendship has been half as meaningful for her as it has been for me.
This post is the eighth installment of a series called A to Z, one for each letter of the alphabet. These posts will be in order, about whatever strikes my fancy, posted each Monday.
To read "A is for Aravis" click here.
To read "B is for Bacon" click here.
To read "C is for Cake" click here.
To read "D is for Depression" click here.
To read "E is for Email" click here.
To read "F is for Finally" click here.
To read "G is for Grace" click here.