The Hope Project – The Giving Keys


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At The Giving Keys, we believe in the power of words— when it builds into our story, it has the power to spark personal transformation. This year, we decided as a team to focus on the word HOPE. Everything we long to be, begins with choosing to HOPE.

The best part about the community which surrounds us is the way we all use our words, together. We’ve invited some of our favorite writers, creatives and stellar individuals on our own team to gather together, share their personal journey, and reignite hope in us all. Let’s begin.



Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

On June 21st 2013, my handsome husband, who was 48 years old went out the door like any other day for his morning run. We had just moved into our new neighborhood three weeks earlier so we were not familiar yet with our neighbors, but on this morning we would be eternally thankful for them.

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As my husband came up our street, just four driveways from ours, he laid down in the street and experienced sudden cardiac death. Our neighbor and his sons were backing out of their driveway, saw my husband lying in the street and immediately started CPR and called 911 - all the while I was in the house getting ready for work and unaware of what was happening.

As I backed out of my driveway, I noticed Rob had been gone over an hour. I started calling his cell and he did not answer. On my third attempt to reach him a woman on the other end answered his phone and said, “Is this Lou?” I answered her and she said, “We have your husband here in the emergency room can you please come?”

At that moment everything stood still for me and my entire being was filled with fear. Once at the hospital, I learned they had restarted Rob’s heart, but went on to explain to me that less than one half of one percent of people survive what happened to him. They had put Rob into a medically induced coma and cooled his body in an effort to keep the brain from swelling. Over the next three days we would have to wait to see the outcome and to see if he had brain activity.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not yet seen - regardless of the statistics and regardless of what I saw, I was going to stay the course. I was armed with my faith and hope alone, with no ability to physically change the outcome. I believe there is super natural power in faith and you have to put hope into action in order to experience it. So, on the third day as they brought Rob out of his coma he opened those beautiful blue eyes and celebrated a full recovery against every statistic – faith is the substance of things hoped for but, yet unseen.




When I think about the word hope, my mind is instantly flooded with music. To be fair, I think of most things in reference to some song or another. I wish I could blame it on the fact that I have a toddler who sings non-stop, but it’s actually something I’ve done for as long as I can remember. So, when I stopped to think about what exactly hope meant to me two things came to mind, a poem by Emily Dickinson and an old hymn I learned in church.

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In the season my little family has just entered, these tunes enter my mind often, always sparking a bit of fire in my soul as I look to the things that are ahead of us.

Okay, so a poem isn’t technically music, but in my 10th grade English class we memorized Dickinson’s poem to the tune of a song and that’s how I always hear it in my head. As a 15 year old, I had no idea how lucky I was to memorize such meaningful words and how in the future they would bring me hope through times where it seemed otherwise forgotten. Dickinson’s poem "Hope is the Thing with Feathers" compares hope to a little bird in our soul that never stops singing, even through the struggles and storms of life. I find it so comforting to think of that little hopeful bird in my soul tweeting a sweet melody despite the fact that everything around me might feel like it’s crashing down. Hope is not conditional, it’s something that we can find within us no matter the circumstance, good or bad.

As I grew in years and life lessons, I realized where this little hopeful bird had come from. It had come from my personal relationship with God. That’s why the hymn, My Hope is Built on Nothing Less, is such a perfect melody to fill my soul in times of stress. One of the lines in the first verse is particularly meaningful since it reminds me to wholly trust in my God rather than what is going on around me. It’s easy to forget about that little hopeful bird in my soul when things in life are all going smoothly, but that’s not what hope really is. Hope is a constant, never changing and never wavering.

Right now my family is facing a whole list of unknowns, in fact the only thing we do know for sure is that our family will be growing in the next couple of weeks when my son decides to make his debut into the world. Yet, rather than letting fear dictate our steps as we journey forward, we are letting hope fill our ears and guide our actions. Maybe you need that reminder, like I often do, that when we have hope we have everything. So let songs fill your heart and your head to encourage you, drive you forward, and refocus you back to what is most important.




I’ll never forget sitting on my couch and watching CNN during the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. I was dumbfounded. I couldn't believe my eyes. But more importantly, I couldn't believe what the media was saying about it. They just kept mentioning how many buildings had fallen and how many people died. It was all stats.

But what about the people? What about their stories? I wondered. "What if those people could tweet? What would they tell the world right now?”

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I thought, what if I went down there myself and gave them a microphone instead? A microphone in the form of a photograph? So I went to Haiti shortly thereafter and asked people what they had to tell the world. The results were staggering. Heart-wrenching. Beautiful. Inspiring. Hopeful.

After losing his leg in the earthquake, one man said, "My chopped leg is not the problem. The lack of government is the problem." Another man said, "The earth may shake, but Haiti remains in my heart."

One woman simply prayed, “God, show me the path of hope".
I did find glimpses of hope there -- in the most unlikely places.

In fact, one couple was moving forward with their wedding. The thought was crazy. There were still aftershocks. Dead bodies lying everywhere. Who would get married among all this? We finally found the wedding, and we asked them what they had to say to the world. Their response? "Love Conquers All."

When we got back home, the United Nations caught wind of my project and ended up printing the images for a monumental meeting with many world leaders who were going to be making a pledge towards rebuilding Haiti. After walking through a hallway of my "Voices of Haiti" images before the meeting, they sat down and pledged $10 billion dollars to rebuild Haiti.

Their voices… were heard. Their hope was felt. And many people were helped.

After that, my wife Shannon and I began the process of adopting two children from Haiti. It took many years, but we never gave up hope. They’re now home with our two biological children and we’re building a new life together.

Haiti taught me that hope can be found everywhere if you’re intentional about uncovering it. I realized that you have to open your heart and get your feet moving to find it.

My passion is to create and to help people. The intersection of those is my life’s purpose. It’s where I see hope rise the strongest. That’s why I’m pursuing the most ambitious project of my life: to build a global hotel chain called The Purpose Hotel, where everything in the hotel is connected to a greater cause or need. I want us to send a message of hope to the world that we can make a difference, and we can do it together.

Everyone deserves hope.




Hope is often described as light, warmth, a thought, a destination we long to be within our future. Hope is bigger than our human mind, and we aim to explain it in a tangible way; which I find to be fascinating. To me, hope is my tool against life’s curveballs, but I must choose it. It doesn’t impose itself on me, but it whispers, “I’m here, hold on, and I will pull you through.”

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Hope is spiritual; far beyond a natural response, and I can choose to trust it.

We live in a very imperfect world, with various struggles and strife. Though I have grown up in a great home, life hit my family in very real and unwarranted ways. From the divorce of my parents, to the knowledge of relatives experiencing homelessness due to unexpected events. From not figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, to a heart broken in need of repair. It goes to show that life is going to be faced with many trials, but that doesn’t mean I need to live in despair.

Hope to me, though it sound cliche to some, is an anchor. It is not moved by the circumstances and remains steady in uncharted waters. It can keep us safe and secure as it is casted before us, guiding us through uncertain territory. Hope is always with me, but I must choose it. It reminds me in those moments of need that I can trust its ability to pull me through. It is always with me and I must not abandon it. It guided me into a place of peace and strength.

So whoever find themselves reading this blog today, my desire is to remind you that hope is already in your reach. You must choose it. It isn’t always easy, but it is promising and brings a great return. Whether your life is in the midst of chaos or stillness, it will never leave you. Hope speak of the future; your future in any and every moment. I found this in my story, and will continue to find it again.

I ask again, what is hope?

Hope is your foundation. Build your life on it and it won’t return void.




Since starting charity: water almost 10 years ago, I have come to see the link between hope and clean water in ways I’d never considered before.

First, the problem.

More than 663 million people worldwide lack access to this most basic need for life. For health.

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Millions of women walk hours every single day to fetch water that makes them sick. Teenage girls miss out on school because their job carrying water for the family takes precedence over learning.

But this problem is being solved every single day, and more than a million people that make up the generous charity: water community have been donating, and are now bringing hope in the form of clean water to an average of more than 2,500 people every single day.

Imagine this. You’ve never had clean water before in your life. You are one of the 663 million people walking hours for dirty water.

Then one day, you hear the distant thundering of a drilling rig. A few moments later, almost $1M of heavy equipment – the rig, compressors, trucks – thunders into your remote village.

Local hydrologists and technicians jump out and start preparing the machinery. You gather around with the other families and you watch this noisy endeavor. Dust, dirt gravel and rock fly everywhere.

Twenty-four hours there, s’later nothing to show for all the noise and dust but the drilling team is still at it.

And then, in a moment, you see the water. It’s muddy at first, but then begins to clean as the team begins flushing the well. Huge plumes of clean water shoot up almost 100 feet into the sky.

You join the other families singing and dancing. In a celebration of wonder and gratitude.

You know that the hours you used to walk to the dirty swamp are a thing of the past. You know that life will be different now that they’ve found clean water a few hundred feet beneath your village. To you, hope now looks like clean water.




Hope means I’m able to see that there is light soon to come after my road of dark travels. It reassures me, as well as soothes my mind, letting me know my life will improve.Some people I’ve come across have had more regrettable symptoms of darkness than I have.

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Hope has whispered in my ears, saying: "I can overcome hardships, with Him as a companion!" Even it it’s self imposed, Hope is motivation to persevere and keep moving forward, despite personal obstacles that once made mine an uphill battle.

Hope means putting together a list of ingredients that’ll bring about a taste of joy and accomplishment. It includes three main ingredients only found at your inner soul supermarket. They are a belief, a goal, and a path. Being Hopeful allows me to believe I will succeed because I have a specific direction I desire to walk!

Hope told me, "Robert, I’ll never leave your side -- I’ll forever keep a firm hold on your right hand. Never again allow me (Hope) to fall asleep inside the core of your conscious. As your friend, I will accomplish half the work now, the remaining work is up to you". With Hope, once you choose me as a companion, damn near all things become possible.

Keep hope alive, because it does many wonders for your soul. But only if you feed on it as you feed on physical food. Keep and maintain hope as a major part of the original food groups! Meats, dairy products, grains, fruit and vegetables, then - there’s Hope.




Hope. It’s such an elusive word. How do you describe hope? How do you get it? How do you give it? The majority of my twenties was spent living in bed with excruciating chronic pain, and wrestling daily with these questions. This unimaginable pain was the result of a devastating car accident in high school—my neck was broken when an ambulance slammed into my car door going over 65 mph.

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In the years following, I was overcome with hopelessness and despair. My injury restricted me to living in bed, and I endured round after round of emotionally exhausting therapies and narcotics. Four years and thousands of dollars later, I was still in debilitating pain. We discovered that one of the wires from my previous spinal cord fusion had broken and pierced my brain stem. To this day, I'm the only person in the world who that has ever happened to. The doctors told me I should be paralyzed and if we didn't remove it surgically, I would be. The surgery itself bore a very high risk of paralysis. Mere weeks after discovering this, my father fell down a flight of stairs and passed away from brain damage. My nine year marriage failed shortly after, and I eventually had a nervous breakdown. I thought my life was over, and to be honest, I wanted it to be. I thought I would live out the rest of my days alone, in bed, and in unrelenting pain.

Hitting this rock bottom turned out to be one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I realized that I had to change everything. I could lay in bed and hurt or I could choose to get up, love, and serve people and connect with others, even while hurting. It sounds so simple but it was a decision; a conscious choice I made every single morning. Around this time, I also decided to wean myself off of years and years of heavy narcotics. I chose to take action and start living out the emotions I wanted to feel—and amazingly those emotions that I so desperately longed for soon came!!!! Webster’s definition of hope is "to desire with expectation of obtainment". I decided to feel hopeful for my future; to believe that this wasn't the end of my story, but the beginning.

I know hard times will always come, and truthfully there are lots of hard things still in my day to day. However, I have seen the most beautiful things born out of the most broken and painful things. Waking up in pain every day is incredibly difficult, but it also makes me a better version of myself. It has allowed me to see the world and others with a new lens—a lens filled with hope and wonder. My pain has given me empathy in a way that I never knew possible. I can enter in and walk with others that are going through heartache, depression, death, physical and emotional suffering, in a way that I was never capable of doing before. Most of all, I can also have so much hope for them. I now know that it is possible to live the most rich and beautiful life in the midst of brokenness and pain, and even despite it, if you’re willing to choose hope. With every ounce of conviction, I can promise that that times of despair do not need to be the end of anyone’s story. There is so much love, goodness and hope to be had in this life, but seeing it is a choice. Choose to live a life of hopeful expectation and your emotions and life will surprise you in ways you could never have imagined.




History books are written about the great boxing match between justice and impunity, but at the marrow of all existence is this gentle courageous hope. And this necessary, extreme, contrast of life runs throughout the greatest stories of all time.

My little life is no exception. But, the light can only seep through the cracks. Without despair, we would not recognize the Hope.

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When I first heard my friend Jon sing, "The shadow proves the sunshine," my wife and I stayed up half the night talking about how we can’t see joy without sadness, how much better the sweet is mixed with the salty (Wendy'sfries dipped in a frosty? Come on.), or the dark without light.

We all know what wrong is when we see it. We all agree without even having to check in. The same is true of hope. When it fills the room, we all know it. And it is never where you think it’ll be.

Go ahead... look at the places deemed the "darkest" in the world, and I promise, you will also find the most light. In my travels through Uganda, at the height of conflict, I met a child named "Innocent" who was running for his life, loudly singing praises each night that he lived to see another day. A victim of violent physical and sexual abuse, named "Grace", who joyfully showed me how to start again.

And though there were so many more, with less ironic names, they taught me to keep expecting the best. To be ever-ready for the great surprises of life. To anticipate goodness, especially when you feel engulfed in ashes. Because, even if that feels like the end of the story, it is not. And, anyone who has left the peace and privilege of their upbringing, will attest to what they found there. Hope.

It’s not just in some of us, it’s in all of us. And it sticks to your ribs like warm oatmeal. And, if you are earnest, I beg you to chase it.

The desire to get involved in making the world a better place is not a bad instinct, it's a necessary one. Though everyone around you will doubt your motives, keep your eyes fixed.

I found myself drawn at a young age to the edges of humanity: slavery, genocide, child soldiers. I ached to participate, and only now have I realized, it shouldn’t be a choice.

I hope we all keep choosing hope.




I think it’s best to not overthink the ways we bring love and hope in the lives around us. Just showing those around you their value by reminding them how awesome they are or why they’re important to you fertilizes hope in their lives.

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For me, I love salt water taffy - so I like to share what I love with people I run into along the way! When we treat hope like an extension of ourselves, then things seem a lot simpler and we wind up leaking a lot more love and hope on others.

When some friends and I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, I was hoping for a few things at the top - like a Jacuzzi and a dozen cake pops. It was a wicked climb, so our guide taught us to take one step at a time and we’ll get to the summit. As hokey as it sounds, it really worked and the mountain shrank a bit!

Hope works like that - even when our story becomes pretty treacherous, we can see the path to the top given to us one step at a time.




Hope has come in countless shapes and forms since the beginning of time. Presidents, revolutionaries, religious leaders and philosophers have all brought mankind the same feeling when we needed it most. Hope is a feeling that can awaken the soul, inspire you, and give you that tingly feeling in your veins.

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But recently for me hope has looked a little different. Mostly because about eight months ago, hope came in the shape of a 21 inch, 7lb 15oz angel named Maiya Grace Baldoni.

I will never forget that moment. After 35 hours of powerful, connected, and meditative labor, my incredible wife brought a new definition of the word hope to the world. To hold in my hands a fresh life, a beating heart, a brain exploding with neurons and eyes processing photons, half made of me, and half made of my wife, was an experience I will never have the words to process. I could I not believe in something greater than myself? How is it possible that this tiny thing, born with all the potentialities in existence could not have been sent by the universe to bring joy to the world? It couldn’t have been an accident, or just some bizarre un-explained scientific phenomena that just happened to create an accidently perfect human being. It couldn’t have been...because it wasn’t.

As all parents know, the births of our children change us, even if just for a moment. If you ask ten people about the moment they held their child, seven of them will say it was the closest they have ever felt to God even if they don’t believe in him, her, or it. There’s a reason for that, because it’s true.

Eight months ago at 11:29am, I saw my daughter take her very first breath. I saw her breathe in all the good this world has to offer and begin her journey on the breast of her mother. It was at that exact moment, when I held her tiny, fragile frame in my hands I was given the gift of remembering. I remembered why I was born, where I came from, and what my purpose was, and if that was Maiya’s first gift to her father, then I can only imagine the greatness she will accomplish in her life...and that gives me hope.

So what does Hope look like to me? Simple. It looks exactly like my daughter.




I feel as though my need for love is too strong.
I'm like a hopeless romantic,
As long as there’s love, things can never go wrong.

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Often I meet new women and I fall in love,
Sometimes it’s because of her appeal,
Sometimes it’s because of our intellectual conversations.
Either way I end up caring too hard, too early.
Love is where I'm vulnerable.
I have the capability of being too nice.
I do way too much for the ones I think I love.

Love should come spontaneously.
It should be something beautiful,
Where beauty isn't the only concern.
Where flaws are welcomed and not burned.
It's this love that revolves in my heart.
But at times it gets very cold,
Because I have no one to fill that part.
Often times I feel like nothing,
Because I lost hope looking for a similar heart.
If I just be myself it'll come naturally.
If I just work on me, and grow rapidly,
True love is bound to be found.
One day me and my love will be living happily.
There's still hope,
There is still hope!