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Sam Lundquist of Los Angeles Asks Us to Share Our Dreams in "Hope Chronicles" 

Thursday, Apr 14 2011
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One kid hopes to win the cheer competition. Another hopes her friend Mando doesn't get killed. Adriana hopes to attend UC Berkeley, and Manuel hopes to become a famous football player. Eddie, a dad, hopes that technology doesn't corrupt his children: "OMG. XOXO. IFLY. LOL. IDK. TTYL. LMAO. What happened to 'Sincerely yours'?"

If God had an in-box, it would read like this, filled to capacity with the white noise of hope.

In the earthly world, Hope Chronicles founder Sam Lundquist invites volunteers to carry journals around their communities and ask people simply: What is your hope?

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MADISON N. GARCIA - Journals on display at Animo Pat Brown Charter High School
  • PHOTO BY MADISON N. GARCIA
  • Journals on display at Animo Pat Brown Charter High School

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When a journal is filled, the volunteer mails it back to Lundquist, who posts it on the Hope Chronicles website (thehope chronicles.org).

One recent weekend, Lundquist stood in a hallway of Animo Pat Brown Charter High School, where his "hope journals" had for a semester been carted around by students. For weeks, students at the downtown Los Angeles school talked to friends, families, neighbors, teachers, janitors and total strangers, asking one simple question: "What is your hope?" On the walls of the school hung the fruits of their labors — several small, brown notebooks recording their findings.

"What people wish for might sound superficial at first, until you examine why they wish for these things," Lundquist says.

Take 32-year-old Nancy, who hopes for "more manga and anime followers." Because in anime, she explains, "There are no colors, religions, racism, creeds or lines to cross. Everyone is the same."

In the noise, patterns emerge. Moms are made of hope. "Mi sueno es que mis hijas cumplian todo lo que se propongan," writes one: My dream is that my daughters fulfill everything they set out to do. No one can touch a mother's aspirations. Except maybe fathers.

"I hope that someday my 15-year-old son will begin to appreciate all that I (and his mother) do for him," says Clive from Iowa. "He is somewhat typical for a kid his age in that it is all about him."

But perhaps Clive from Iowa's hopes are unnecessary. Not every teenager is universally self-absorbed. "I hope for my brother," writes 16-year-old Yazmin Escalera. "So he won't have a lonely life. He lives in Pennsylvania, has no gf, or family."

The hopes of even one small community are immense. In L.A.'s Florence Firestone neighborhood alone, there are momentary hopes and deep hopes and hopes almost too precarious to mention. As one man wonders, "Can one have hope without doubt, or are they the yin to the yang?"

Anything that can be hoped for, is. People hope for a cure. For prosperity. For everyone to just get along.

Some hopes are specific: "I hope our government restores NASA funding for the ARES-1 shuttle replacement program," writes Dave B., 62, East Aurora, N.Y. Others are poetic: "I hope for electricity," writes Katie, 23, from St. Louis, Mont. "A live-wire current pulsing through all that we love, do, believe in, attempt."

Lundquist, who graduated from USC four years ago with degrees in political science and broadcast journalism, does this project because he wants the world to become smaller, and the people in it to "become bigger." He pays for the project himself — and his journals certainly get around. They have traveled to Cuba, and effectively saw more of the world than one Cuban woman had. "I wish I could travel," she said. "To anyplace. What I would like most is to leave here just once."

Last year, the journals went to San Diego Comic-Con. Attendees there hoped to sell their ghost-hunting TV show pilots, for "sugar-powered jet packs and floating cats for all," and for fewer attendees the following year.

The journals make it onto airplanes. Passengers pass them around during flights. What do strangers on a plane hope for, other than a landing they can walk away from?

On last July's American Airlines 1585 nonstop from Los Angeles to Toronto, Justin Bedingfield of Sydney, Australia, hoped it wouldn't be his 3-year-old daughter's last trip. She has been fighting a childhood cancer, neuroblastoma, since she was 6 months old.

What must it be like to be her dad, to flip open the journal and read someone else's dark wish: "I hope to be dead, dead, dead sooner than later." Signed, "anonymous."

Others aren't hoping for the end, but for a bit of grace before it comes. "God grant me true happiness just once before I die," one man says.

Hopes are slippery suckers all the way around. Nineteen-year-old Casey, from Cape Town, South Africa, hopes "not for money, a big house or material things, but for a full and meaningful life surrounded by those I love."

Helen, 9, hopes for world peace.

Lundquist's favorite moment is when the plane lands. Everyone stands up, looks around and wonders who hoped for what.

Reach the writer at galimurung@laweekly.com

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