The Face of Hope

January 20, 2013

Look around you. Who do you see?

In this moment, I see coffee patrons, Sunday brunchers, a bustling barista, readers, surfers . . . oops, the studious gentleman just walked out (have a great day, sir). Ah, but true to the circle of life, in comes a new addition with a vibrant red handbag and a beeline precision for the bar. Hmm, large 2 percent latte, welcome to the room.

The man with the ginseng green tea in the careworn hoodie offers his table by the window for two frenetic female companions. They choose the couch and an ornate chair.

Looking is fun. Seeing is far more remarkable.

Peering a layer deeper, I see a troubled hand on a forehead, the cautiously open body language of a woman in the corner grasping her book and secretly looking around for conversation, the bubbly exuberance of the friend of our 2 percent latte with red handbag, a bookishly charming yet seemingly stressed girl who reminds me of a young Lisa Loeb, and a mature woman near the window with a very concentrative gaze and deeply rich scarf.

Their faces tell so many tales: excitement, worry, exhaustion, craving, numbness and passion. Their faces speak to me of hope. A jumble of words all spinning through the air, bouncing off the walls and seeking acceptance, happiness and relief. They may not see it or even feel it as I do, but it’s there—palpable and quietly present.

Thanks to some digital wizardry from The New York Times, I was able to challenge their massive archives to build a Word Cloud Portrait and show us the face of hope. Below are the words the publication pulled from its Arts section that have been linked to “hope.”

Word cloud portrait

Like the many expressions and thoughts of our coffee patrons, hope is not only about glee, possibility and the young; although, all are represented. It’s also about the boundaries, the reviled, the storms and the outsider. The face of hope is many things, of many shades and weights. The face of hope exists in each of us, with a uniquely poignant and profound clarity.

For me, I smiled to see scrappily, lightning, books and character tucked into the picture. We each choose how hope comes to light in our lives and collect the menagerie of words that makes up our experience in this world.

To the coffee patrons, the fellow drivers on the roadways, the tired barista and those of you wondering what hope looks like . . . close your eyes and open your heart. Your precious canvas is the face of hope.

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