How Do You Spell Hope? (a story of promise, imagination, and hard work)

Do not remove the ancient landmark
Which your fathers have set.

Do you see a man who excels in his work?
He will stand before kings;
He will not stand before unknown men.Proverbs 22:28-29

“If your Passion does not catch your belief on fire, the Hope will burn out in a heartbeat.”

Rebekah with Mike Colbert – owner/renovator

I love it when I’m wrong about something – but wrong in a way that adds a little more hope to the equation.

In yesterday’s post – That’s Why They Call it The Heartland – I talked about the struggle and decline evident in so many small towns. It’s not just in Mississippi, of course, this is a common trend all over the United States and the world. Today’s economy works completely differently to the world of farming and markets and work and commerce that spawned these communities and placed them horse-traffic and walking distances apart.

But people live here, and they love their homes so they are not going to go away.

At least not without a fight, and Saturday afternoon Rebekah and I had the pleasure of meeting a man who – along with his family – is fighting hard to make something creative, and interesting, and useful, and noteworthy, and imaginative, and extremely cool happen in the town of Houston, Mississippi.

We asked Carol at the B&B about a good place to eat and she sent us Gather Coffee & Brew, located in this amazing, classic, historic building on the busiest corner of downtown. The guy who greeted us – Mike Colbert – is renovating the building and what he is doing is inspirational.

Of course, Rebekah managed to snag a tour, so we got to see some fascinating behind-the-scenes work. There’s a soon-to-open boutique hotel, a restaurant, some office space, and this gem of a café where we enjoyed not only a better-than-good salad but also scored a local craft beer along with some fascinating conversation with Mike about what’s going on.


The new old building in Houston, MS

What is going on is hope. And hope in a struggling small town is spelled:

  • Hospitality,
  • Optimism,
  • Passion,
  • Entrepreneurship.

Because – 1) unless people first feel welcome  – Hospitality – then it doesn’t matter what you have going on. And 2) – Optimism: if you don’t recognize opportunity, and believe in the promise that is your vision with an optimism that not only fuels your own desire but replicates itself in others, then don’t risk your money or your sanity. And if your 3) Passion does not catch your belief on fire, the Hope will burn out in a heartbeat. And, finally, it takes 4) real Entrepreneurship to take all those hot pieces and meld them into something that will work.

And this is how change happens.

outside the “Gather” café in downtown Houston, Mississippi

Rebekah and I walked around the town square, checking out the tired, worn courthouse, and we talked about what it means to get something up and going again after it has all but given up on life and hope, and we thanked God that we have the opportunity every day to believe in people, to welcome them home, and to fuel their journey with optimism and passion and promise.

Hope. There is a lot of room for it, and a lot of need for it in today’s conflicted, confused, chaotic world. What does hope look like for you?

Peace and blessings – always – DEREK


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