There was a women I met at HopeFest Phoenix a few year ago who’s story has stayed with me. Let’s call this woman, Sarah. Sarah was the first person in line for dental assistance at HopeFest that year. HopeFest opened it’s doors at 9am on Saturday morning, and Sarah came at 3pm on Friday afternoon to stand in line. She was so excited to have made it on time to be able to get help. The event was advertised as “first come, first serve”.
I had a chance to sit with her for a while, and she began to share with me about her pains and anxieties of life that made her feel that there isn’t much hope. I was able to share with her some of my pains and anxieties of life as well. She shed some tears of pain and joy – joy because she felt heard, understood, and a sense of solidarity. I wanted to take a picture of her to remember her. Initially, she resisted because she said hated her smile. I said, “Non-sense, you have a beautiful smile. I’m glad you’re here Sarah. It’s not a coincidence that you’re feeling hopeless and you’re in line at HopeFest.” She smiled, cried, and said, “I guess you’re right. I didn’t think about that.”
The next day at HopeFest, I was walking around the plaza area in front of Chase Field, and Sarah tapped me on my shoulder, gave me a big hug, and said, “Hey, thanks for everything.” I didn’t do anything other than share with her that there’s hope and that she’s valuable. It was very cool to see her physical countenance so drastically different than the day before. She got the dental help she needed, her pain subsided, she got a haircut, and some pretty cool face painting.
This is what Hope Fest is all about. Thousands of “Sarah’s” have experienced a glimpse of hope, and for at least a day, they felt that life wasn’t too heavy to keep moving forward. Today, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…we will all continue to have opportunities that HopeFest afforded us – opportunities to offer friendship, resources, affirmation, and loving words that battle shameful thoughts, etc…HopeFest offers us a glimpse into the way life could be – a life of hope regardless of how hard today is.