Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Isn’t it surprising how way leads on to way? Last week the Hope Foundation got a call from the Guelph Mercury, the newspaper in Guelph Ontario. Joanne Shuttleworth had been contemplating hope when she found us on the web. Later, reading the article she wrote, (see below) I found myself remembering a day in 1993. It was graduation day at Central High, my old high school in Sedgewick Alberta. My nephew Todd was graduating and I had been invited to give the guest address. I recall how I worried about that address. You see, the economy was in a slump. The oil patch was pulling back. There was a worldwide recession of sorts. The Gulf War had recently ended. I wasn’t a hopey in those days. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of the Hope Foundation yet. But I was aware nonetheless of an abiding fear of the future, aware of it, yet not quite able to put it into appropriate words for a graduation address.
The ceremony began and I waited for my turn, watching expectantly for signs of pessimism. There were none. This, it appeared, was a grad just like every other grad. The students were leaving high school and going on to something new. Where, I wondered is the fear, the dread, the sense of impending doom? I waited and waited. But no doom came to call. In the end, after all, it was a grad like any graduation ceremony followed by a dance. Everybody, young and old, got up on the dance floor. So I danced.

The Guelph Mercury

Joanne Shuttleworth

When the going gets tough, the tough, er, keep hoping

Two months after my husband and I split up, the small community paper I was working at part-time folded.

It was a brutal, sad day, and I thought, well now I won't even make the $50 a week I was earning.

It didn't take long to deplete the bank account and while I diligently sent out resumés and applied for any job that remotely involved writing -- the only
practical skill I had -- the bills mounted on the kitchen table.

I never questioned my decision to end the marriage -- at least not once I made up my mind. But I did wish I had thought this one through.

At least I could have planned the money better, I thought. If I had hung in another six months, I could have patched the leaky ceiling and fixed the car
before going it alone.

But there I was trying to figure out how to pay for these repairs, plus all the regular expenses that come with home ownership and single parenthood.

The kids had to tighten their belts too, and for that I was sorry. I made them choose just one activity and give up the rest. I pared down the grocery bill.
We didn't go out much and allowance disappeared.

Although I believed that in the long-term we would all benefit, in those dark days I was overwhelmed with guilt and worry that my decision was throwing
my kids into poverty. This was my choice, not theirs, yet they were deeply affected.

Then out of the blue, my daughter, who was 11 at the time, said something that fortified my resolve and, as is often the case with kids, taught me a another
lesson in life.

"You know what?" she said. It was a statement more than a question. "This is good for me."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Well, you're going after your dream, and you're showing me how to do it."

My jaw dropped. I could have kissed her. I'm sure I did.

That's what you're getting from this? A positive life lesson despite evidence to the contrary?

She didn't realize how much her words helped me. We've talked about it since and Laura doesn't really remember the conversation.

But she does remember the sentiment -- that something good will come out of hardship if we just hang in long enough, and together enough.

I've been thinking about that story since speaking Wendy Edie, director of counselling at the Hope Foundation of Alberta, an agency connected to the University
of Alberta, which does research on the physical and emotional benefits of hope.

Just as laughter can be infectious, negative feelings can spread too, Edie told me. Get one Debbie Downer in the batch and pretty soon the air is thick
with it.

"Each person has their own personal experience of hope," she told me. "We don't notice hope in good times. But when times are uncertain, nothing sucks away
hope more than fear."

Edie said her agency, once maligned for studying something as "intangible" as hope, is gaining traction as more and more people are facing uncertain futures.
Lost investments and lost jobs have most of us searching for reasons to be hopeful.

Edie said when she thinks of the stories her mother told about growing up during the Great Depression, it wasn't the hardships that stuck with her.

"She probably told me how bad it was, but what I remember is how resourceful people were, and how they helped each other out."

For those struggling to remain positive, Edie says we should try to focus on what we're doing now that we'll be proud of later.

Talk about reasons to be hopeful, especially with your kids.

U.S. President Barack Obama talks a lot about hope and that bodes well for us all, Edie said.

"I put his speeches up on our website," she said. "When he talks to the people about our hopes, it's really about our future. And we do have a future."

Here's hoping.

Mercury reporter Joanne Shuttleworth can be reached at jshuttleworth@guelphmercury.com.

Joanne Shuttleworth

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