We have a tradition in our church of lighting a candle for each Sunday of Advent — the season of preparation for Christmas. The first candle we light each year symbolizes Hope.

Hope is a state of one’s own mind not a state of the world. Hope is based on one’s own heart.  –Vaclav Havel

When it comes to the current political landscape, I choose hope. Hope is not wishful thinking; hope is choosing to take action. Hope is working to make difference. I know that sounds absolutely crazy, especially given the events of the past few days. But every morning at the start of my day, no matter what is on the news, I still have hope.

You see, I have a plan. Hope is easier to embrace when we have a plan. When Trump got elected in November 2016, just like many of you, I felt shock, anger, and disappointment. It took several weeks to think about the question, “What can I do for my country?” I decided to run for office again and be a voice for the issues and values that mattered to me. I won my first campaign for the Georgia State House in 1998 and went on to be elected to a competitive “swing” district two more times. It’s been a while, but I know how to do this.

Now, just like back then, I have people to meet and phone calls to make every day. I have a plan to flip a Georgia State Senate district, a plan to fix gerrymandering, and a plan to turn Georgia blue again. And I have hope that my plans will be successful.

I have known Georgia first hand as a blue state. I served in the legislature when Georgia had a Democratic governor, House, and Senate. We have enough people out there to make it happen again — we just have to convince them that it’s worth going out to vote, that it’s worth believing we can change the system.

And, I know that when Georgia was blue, even though it was a Dixiecrat blue, our schools were better funded, our teachers’ pay increased, our class sizes were smaller, more people got Medicaid, and we got rid of a racist state flag. Democrats did that.

Now that Republicans are in charge, we spend our energy debating discrimination in the name of religion and focus our efforts on our rights to carry guns into bars and onto college campuses.

These may be the officials our state elected, but this isn’t who we are. I know that we are so much more compassionate and invested in our future than that. I have seen what blue will bring our state — and it’s much more than we can achieve with the current Republican leadership.

Back to that Advent candle — Hope. I pulled out the calculator app on my phone. Jason Carter lost the governorship in 2014 by only 200,000 votes. So, I divided 200,000 by 56 — the number of Georgia State Senate districts. I realized that to do my part, I need to find approximately 3,500 new voters who didn’t show up in 2014. That’s less than 100 votes per precinct. See why I choose hope? We can do this.

All this being said, hope actually does not come easy to me. Enacting my plan requires me to push myself beyond my comfort zone — every day. The times we are living through require this of all of us.

Only Hope can motivate us to do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do. That is why Hope can motivate when all around us is falling apart. –Vaclav Havel

This weekend, I spoke of hope to the Indivisible 7 group in Gwinnett county. When I shared with them that candidates need funding, a young woman asked, “What do you need the money for?” I answered her question in some detail. After the meeting, she came up to me and said, “I’m going to do something I have never done before. I’m going to make a political contribution.” And she made a donation to my campaign — a donation that was big enough that I know it pushed her beyond her comfort zone.

This December, people in our community will be lighting candles for many reasons, advent, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and other celebrations. In many ways, candles, themselves, are a reminder of the beauty that can come even when it’s dark and cold. In our electricity filled world, a candle still has the power to remind us that the future can bring light.

But someone must light that candle. Someone must have hope that there is a sunrise, a warmer morning ahead. Will you join me in making a contribution today? Sign up to volunteer or make a donation. Together, we can become a light for tomorrow.