For those who never dared to believe — hope

From the early Democratic presidential primaries until Barack Obama became president-elect, a white friend of mine has been unflappable in his belief that Obama would be our new president.

From the doubts of Obama's experience, through the repetitive barrage of The Rev. Jeremiah Wright's sermons, to the torrid final charge by Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign, and despite the viral e-mails that painted Obama as the anti-Christ, my friend never wavered. Obama's going to win, he said. You watch.

He had to say that frequently because I was not one filled with hope. I was more in the "don't dare to dream such a thing" mode. I didn't want to jinx Obama's chances, and I didn't want to ride the emotional highs if there were going to be lows lurking around the corner.

"Do you believe now?" he would ask weekly, particularly after a persuasive speech or poll number indicating Obama was outdistancing his opponent Sen. John McCain. "I'm not there yet," I would reply. And I wasn't.

Even on Election Day, when poll after poll and pundit after pundit had given last rites to McCain's campaign, I couldn't bring myself to hope. Another white friend living in Texas called after work that day, but before polls closed in either of our states, to gauge my perceptions of Obama's chances. "I don't know," I said, denying her a ledge to cling to until the results came in.

If I had hoped too much, and something went badly wrong, I'm not sure I would have had the strength or the will to fight my way through the quicksand of depression to breathable air again. It takes too much out of me.

But talking to both these friends helped me far more than it helped them. They represented a glimmer of hope for me that I couldn't get from my black friends.

When before could we find intelligent white people, from different generations, who believed in a black candidate? They took to heart the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s hope that one day black people would be "judged by the content of their character" rather than "the color of their skin."

That's what they were doing with Obama. They judged him by his attributes and the promise he carries for the healing of this country.

I need to thank them for that. They helped this old beaten-down warrior see that some of her battles are with the ghosts in her past and in the history of her people in this country. Obama represents the future, where ghosts don't yet exist.

That doesn't mean the demons are gone. They simply aren't as noticeable when the future is so blindingly bright.