Sometimes hope is hard won. Believe me, I’ve been there. There have been times in my life where I’ve lost it. I’ve been to some of the poorest places in the world, witnessed too much violence, hatred, and neglect. You stand there, gape-mouthed and silent. Feeling absolutely helpless.
Maybe that’s why I get a little itchy when I hear people talking about hope too much, when it’s advertised broadly or programmed en masse. I’m suspicious of initiatives for hope. To me, institutions take the magic and mystery out of it. That’s why I love Sari Bari. It’s not an institution. It’s gritty. It’s touchable. It’s about the people. The Sari Bari brand of hope is for anyone who wants or needs it. Whether you live in a red light district or not, you can find a good dose of hope there.
I live in a tiny green house on a sleepy street in an old neighborhood in Omaha, Nebraska. Middle America for sure. Sometimes it feels like a million miles away from the crowded streets of Kolkata. But like many of the folks who work for Sari Bari, I really live in my neighborhood. I walk it, work in it, experience it every day. Most people within my community are closer than half a mile from my front porch.
There’s the shared studio four blocks up the street where I office as a self-employed writer and communications consultant. Six of us work there, creatives and entrepreneurs. They are some of the best people you’ll ever meet—kind, supportive, hard-working, collaborative—a group that’s easy to love. As a writer, I work from home a lot. So I only spend a few hours a week there doing busy work, meeting clients, or collaborating on a project with one of the studio mates. I seriously get a high five every time I walk through the door. (Thanks Stephan!) Everyone wants me to be there—even more than I am there. Last week some of us gathered in our backyard for a last minute spring roll dinner (at 9pm on a weeknight). We were all crammed around our little outdoor table. I looked around and quietly savored the laid-back moment: I had “my people” there.
Then there are The Neighbors. Again, loving The Neighbors is pretty easy. When we bought our home a little less than a year ago, we immediately became part of the neighborhood family. We knew we had something special when a full pitcher of amazingly good home-brewed beer was handed over the fence to us at the end of an exhausting moving day. From day one we were included in all the spontaneous backyard hangouts. And the birthday parties! Every person is well-celebrated with hats, birthday cards (one from the household humans and one from the household pets), cake, and a few lottery tickets from Diane that come with only one stipulation: winnings may not be used to move out of the neighborhood.
Beer and high fives to greet you. Unprogrammed belonging. Lives fully lived and fully celebrated. Goodness happening all around you—probably in your own backyard, and certainly right next door. If hope is ever hard to find, embrace the kind that comes easy. And enjoy.
Daphne Eck is a writer, creative strategist and communications director. As a self-employed consultant, she helps talented people and organizations to communicate about their work with meaning and resonance. She has written as a ghostwriter, editor of an advocacy journal, and a copywriter and branding specialist. Daphne likes to read, cuddle cats, and grow things in her garden. She is obviously a homebody.