Hope

1468770_10203548446493063_3937655040427565136_nHope is difficult to define, it’s not easy to describe, but we know it when we see it. We know it when we see people who are scrappy. People who say, “It’s okay. I messed up, but I can start over.” I see it in people who take responsibility for their choices and for their lives. I see it in people who don’t make excuses—people who make a way. People with hope are humble people—people like Amber Weaver.

Amber is a 32-year old mother of three. She’s a wife and she’s a personal trainer. And, she is a rising leader in the Juice Plus+ Company. The first time I met Amber was on a 3-way call with Kathy Crockett. We talked about the business. We talked about her expectations, her dreams and her goals. I shared some of my story with Amber—what it was like to sell Juice Plus+ before there were smart phones and airplanes and television. It was then that Amber opened up, and started telling us her story. When she had finished, she explained rather sheepishly that she’d never shared this part of her story with anyone. Here’s what she told Kathy and me.

“In 2003, I was 21 years old…and my husband, Matthew, took his own life. A week after his death, I found out that I was pregnant. Benjamin was born in 2004.” I asked Amber, “What was going on for you then?” She described it as, “Feeling hopeless. An emotional heaviness. Going through the motions. There was always this sense of What now? It was a dark and lonely place.”

She told me that today she works closely with a leadership coach, someone she says handles her with grace, with truth and with compassion.

“He’s helped me focus on the future, so I can see where I am going instead of staying hung up on where I’ve been. He’s taught me how to ‘center’ myself, to deal with my thoughts and emotions. I work hard to stay balanced. I take time to rest and to be led by others. I ask God every day to use me as a picture of hope for others. It’s been a struggle to fit the pieces together, a struggle to find normal again. But, that struggle has made me. I see things differently today. I think I’m more passionate, more honest and much more raw.”

Ernest Hemingway wrote in A Farewell To Arms: “The world breaks everyone. And afterwards, many are strong at the broken places.”

After listening to Amber, there was a long pause, or should I say a gasp. I said, “Amber, listen, whenever you tell your story to someone, tell it from that place. Tell it from the broken places in your life. It’s real. It’s authentic and it gives people hope. We don’t have to give every single detail of our lives every time we share our story, but we can always tell it from that special place, that honest place you just shared with me and Kathy.”

I believe that all of us can learn to tell our stories from the broken places, the imperfect places in our lives. It will take some courage. It will take time. It will take some testing of the waters, but once we’ve integrated those experiences into our lives, once we realize that there is no shame in struggling, that there’s no one to blame, that we can forgive reality for being whatever it is, we can tell our stories, our real stories. And people will get it.

We give people hope not only when we tell our stories. We give people hope when we listen to their stories. When we listen to people, we make their stories sacred, we elevate their journey and their dreams to something that carries meaning and purpose, and we give them permission to tell their stories from the broken places.

Let’s keep telling our stories. Engage people. Listen to people. Open up and start the conversation.

I totally believe in the power of social media, but I also know that a simple and honest conversation between two people is still the best technology.