That's not actually what I want to talk to you about today, though.
Today, as we Americans are in a flurry of activity getting ready for this Thursday's holiday, I want to dedicate a blog post to the concept of hope.
I like hope. (Not to be confused with Hope, who is a sweet little girl I know and about whom I could tell an amusing story. I'll save that for another day.) I gave the speech at my college graduation after winning an essay contest, and hope was my subject. You know, that thing at the bottom of Pandora's box. Like any mildly overdramatic individual, I'll milk a topic for all it's worth, although this might set a record because I'm continuing my discussion of the subject eleven years later.
So what brings this on? Well, mostly it's the fact that I've spent the past two evenings crying at my computer. That's because I couldn't tear myself away from Gives Me Hope. I've seen the website many times; I even follow it on Facebook. What prompted me to visit it was a friend who had a terrible weekend, having personal effects and valuables stolen from her car, asking us all for "chicken soup type stories" to bring her up a bit. I immediately posted the link to the website, and then for the first time in a while, wandered over to visit it myself.
GMH, as they call it, was founded by Emerson Spartz and Gaby Montero, an engaged couple in Chicago. They were familiar with a website called FML (I'm not spelling out what that stands for, but the ML is "my life" and the F is a verb), where people posted stories about their worst moments and encounters and things that drained them of hope for humanity.
If Emerson's name sounds at all familiar to you, you're probably part of the Harry Potter fandom. Emerson was the founder of MuggleNet, which remains one of the fandom's pre-eminent websites, and had the privilege of being invited to interview J. K. Rowling herself.
Together, he and his beloved Gaby launched GMH to give people a place where they could do the opposite of what they do on FML. They post anonymous short stories of little incidents that uplifted them. Compliments from a stranger at moments when they felt unloved, the encouragement of a teacher or another authority figure which helped them past a difficult time, things like that.
Some of the stories are hard to read. The posters come from abusive backgrounds, have battled cancer, have lost loved ones. Their pain comes through in their writing, but they haven't given up yet.
In addition to GMH, the Spartz-Montero team has also opened a number of sister sites. Six Billion Secrets is where people can share the secrets they carry inside; some of these are often connected to stories on GMH, because people read one and it inspires them to post something on the other. GMH has expanded into two spinoffs; Love Gives Me Hope is for "the stories that make you go 'Aww!'," while Kids Give Me Hope is specifically for GMH stories about little guys and girls who bring hope to their older siblings, parents, grandparents, neighbors, babysitters, and others.
The newest member of the GMH family is Taste of Awesome, which is chiefly for fun. Boring pictures are given hilariously awesome captions. And then there's Saves Watts, a Google-powered search engine which is specifically designed to save energy.
GMH is being released very shortly in book format; you can learn more about that here. A pocket-sized version of the site that you can carry with you -- sounds like a pretty awesome shield against the nastier stuff that hits us each day.
I've got to get ready for work, so by way of an end to this post, I'm going to share with you my very, very favorite submission to GMH. I wouldn't normally do this, but I think that Emerson and Gaby will understand why I did, and I encourage everyone reading this to go to their websites and see all of the awesomeness contained therein.
The GMH is this:
Someone, somewhere, is reading this. You may or may not believe me, but YOU are beautiful, strong, and I think you can make it through. Don't give up. You give me hope.
Please, please, share this post and these links with the people around you. Remember that none of us knows what another one is experiencing, and your timely kindness may be the thing that keeps someone going for another day. As my friend Kerri's email signature says, everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle; give them this shield to carry with them.