Thursday, July 30, 2009


Need a reason to focus on hope when you might be tempted to focus on other things? Then go to Messages Of Hope Work Better In Motivating Black Patients To Seek Early Screening For Cancer and you will see how the way we talk about health care determines whether people try to use it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009



Hope work is the art of giving hope in life’s difficult moments.
Hope work is the practice of setting up an environment where people find the courage and wisdom to express the hopes they have.
Hope work is inspiring, exciting, encouraging, intentional and rigorous.
Hope work is the science of learning what the world’s most experienced researchers have learned in the process of studying hope.
Hope work is the discipline of organizing hope knowledge and teaching it to others.
Hope work finds ways to bring hope and reality together and still have both.

In classrooms,
At conferences,
In counselling,
In support groups,
Wherever people gather to face challenge and find a path to a positive future, that is where hope work belongs.

Hope is the interaction of thinking, feeling, acting and relating that enables us to imagine a future in which we are willing to participate.
We can think more positively.
We can relate more humanely.
We can act more creatively.
We can feel more hopeful.

And when we feel more hopeful
We act more positively
We relate more humanely
We think more creatively.
And we are able to imagine a future we could not imagine only a moment before.

And when we imagine that future, we are already stepping into it.

Want to know more about hope work? Go to HOPE FOUNDATION OF ALBERTA

Monday, July 27, 2009


A stranger struck up a bus ride conversation. Hearing that I work at a centre for hope studies she asked, “What do you learn in hope studies?”
”Oh,” said I in a desperate grasp for a five-second sound bite, ”I have learned that I can change my day by saying I hope and making sure I feel hope at the same time.”
She was a little surprised, probably more than a little doubtful. That is where it ended, seeing as how she was getting off at the next stop. Not enough time to convince her maybe, but I do hope she was still wondering about it by dinnertime.
Sometimes I look back in wonder at the things I have learned and the points in life at which I learned them. For example, my fortieth birthday had already come and gone before I understood how the simple language of ”I hope” can change things. I can’t say why the recognition came so late. It might be that I simply had never given the matter any thought, or maybe I was a little bit scared to voice my hopes out loud. But whatever the reason, I am over it now, and that is a good thing.
The worst thing—but ultimately the best thing about being a hope specialist is that you pretty much have to be able to do things before you can preach about them, and since I preach a lot about using the language of ”I hope,” I have to work at it. Every morning when I brush my teeth, I try to think one hope for the day in the language of”I hope.” The size of the hope is not important. The hope can be a big and complicated hope: I hope people will be pleased with my workshop. Alternately—and this happens most often—it can be a small hope: I hope the sun will be shining as I walk to work.
The nice thing about saying, ”I hope” is that you get to feel hope. Feeling hope is important. The rule is: whatever the hope may be, I have to feel hope when I say it. That rules out a few things, narrows the field a bit.
Hopes, I have learned, are a little bit like wishes. It feels good to think about them. They are also a little bit like goals, that when you state a hope you have a tendency to move toward that thing, to think of the steps it might take to get there. That’s a good reason to express hopes, to put them out there.
The hard thing about using the language of ”I hope” is that you have to get used to telling the difference between saying hope while feeling hope, and saying hope while feeling fear. Saying ”I hope” when you actually feel hope is a good idea. It takes you in the direction you want to go in. When I say, ”I hope people will be pleased with my workshop,” I imagine smiling faces, flattering comments on evaluation forms, satisfaction expressed over dinner. The images are tantalizing, appealing. I want to move toward them. When I hope the sun will shine on my way to work, I feel like going to work. And if the sun doesn’t shine, well, I’ll cope with the disappointment somehow. Sunny or rainy, the journey to work will be there regardless. I might as well look forward to it for as long as possible.
Saying ”I hope” when you feel something else—fear, for example, is not such a good idea. The difference lies primarily in the images that come to mind. When I say, ”I hope I don’t mess up that workshop,” I am not feeling hope at all. I am feeling fear—the fear of failure. I am envisioning people checking their watches, falling asleep, passing notes to their neighbours. If I say, ”I hope it doesn’t rain,” the chances are pretty good that I am not imagining the warmth of sunshine. I am more apt to be thinking about being soaked, about dripping water off the end of my nose as I rush through the Hope House door. Alas, the upcoming day is something to dread.
Like most things worth doing, saying ”I hope” and matching it with the hopeful feeling takes a little practice, a little discipline. You can’t always hope for things just by saying you do. Sometimes the facts, the history, the undeniable circumstances simply make the language of ”I hope” impossible to use. You can’t reasonably hope for a sunny walk to work if rain is pouring down as you step out the door. But I have found that once you decide to find things to hope for, you tend to find more ways to hope for them. Hope need not lose its grip if it’s pouring rain. I am still allowed to hope for a sunny walk to work tomorrow. It’s the discipline that makes the hoping system work, the commitment to it.
You’ve got to be tough to make an outright commitment to hope language. You have to get used to being the butt of hope jokes. Your friends and relatives will make fun of you. There’s no end to the antics they’ll get up to—expecting you to leap tall buildings with a single hope, daring you to play straight man while they put on hope comedy routines at your expense. No doubt about it, they’re testing you. They’re trying to find out if you really mean it, to see how much risk you are willing to take in hope’s defense.
At least once a week, usually on rainy days, I fervently hope that the world will insist that we hope. When this happens the practice of sneering at hopers will become socially unacceptable. Open hopers will be applauded and the applause will keep on when they have to face the hard stuff. There will be fewer people standing in the wings waiting to say I-told-you-so! the minute there’s a little bit of doubt.
Like any other thing worth doing, the process of getting used to hope language can take a while. Even as I write this article, I wonder how long it took me to really understand the difference between feeling hope and feeling fear. I think it dawned slowly. I started by using the language of “”I hope””. In those days abundance was everything. The more I used it, the better I got at using it. Once I had a nice habit going, I could start refining it. I stopped using hope language when it didn’t feel right. There was a point at which I stopped using that language in sarcasm, and another point at which I stopped using it when I felt afraid.
So I cut the world a little slack in the matter of getting used to hope language. No point insisting that others change until they are ready. Back in the days when smoking was just as irritating to non-smokers but more respectable in society I used to be what my friends called a ”tolerant non-smoker” meaning that I’d choose to sit with them in the smoking section rather than watch them suffer over in non-smoking. But look how things have changed. People used to smoke wherever they chose on airplanes. Now they are hardly permitted to smoke in airports. I figure that a society that can switch so quickly to embracing non-smokers can also make a quick switch to embracing hopers.
Few people dispute that hoping is a good idea. They know it’s a good idea. They just aren’t quite ready to embrace it is a cause. For me, it’s a cause. Just imagine what the world could be if we kept our eye on our hopes for it rather than our fears. Imagine what it could be if we willed ourselves to hope for it and worked at hoping for it. It’s an outcome worth hoping for, worth talking about on the bus—if your listener is two stops away from getting off. If the bell has already been rung, you have to settle for the five-second sound bite and hope that person will still be wondering about it at dinner.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


It’s one thing to be near something, and quite another to know it’s there. Every day there are thousands, maybe millions of things that let us pass them by, never bothering to make their presence known. And then, a letter from a cousin: “I have chipped nail polish on my toes. The other day I was taking the pause that refreshes in the ladies room and leaned over to have a closer look at those
chips and bashed my head on the double-decker heavy duty toilet paper dispenser, which made the whole four cubicle interconnected structure shudder and
clang. Chuckling about it later I imagined a concussion report description of incident. I'm fine.”
Even as I chuckled in sympathy, my fingers wandered curiously to the little lump to the left of my nose, just at the tip of the eyebrow. At the risk of worrying various other relatives, I do suspect that this tendency for post-bending-down tragedy syndrome runs in the family. There’s the little lump, right where I last felt it, under my left eyebrow, a lingering reminder of the time when my back got so sore that I took it for a bone scan. I was in the bathroom at the lab, trying to hurry, and I put my purse on the floor. Wouldn’t you know it? Some time in the few seconds between the moment when I sat down and the moment when I reached down to retrieve my purse, somebody sneaked in and installed a grab bar at exactly the correct position to create a resounding crash with my passing eyebrow. It was a perfect hit, a spot-on connect. It had that satisfying smack I’ve occasionally heard while standing near someone who managed to get a golf shot just right. I was fine. I am fine, so I’m always a bit surprised to find that little lump. I truly did expect it to eventually go away.
That little lump took the place of a previous lump, not so big, the mark of another incident just a few years ago, one that taught me how it feels to cross certain boundaries in life. That lump came innocently enough, the product of laziness rather than intention. I had opened the lower cupboard door to retrieve a plant pot. Intent on a planting mission, I did not stop to close it. I would close it later, no need to bother right now. You guessed it! I forgot that I had left it open and so, when I bent to feed the dog, my eyebrow and the top of the door collided. There was a nice bruise by the next day.
It was the bruise, rather than the knock, that taught me what it means to be near to something without really being aware of it. A bruise is more prominent than a little lump. It stands out. People notice.
Our journey to work takes us through the inner city, along the sidewalks frequented by hurrying commuters in business attire, and neighbourhood frequenters with lives we seldom imagine. To say we interact with the inhabitants of this life would be an overstatement. We shout a cheery greeting to regular corner-dwellers, shrug off panhandlers. We smile at people we meet on the sidewalk. We hurry a little when sharp, angry threatening voices shout obscenities at each other across the line of advancing traffic. It’s a rough world. We know that. We know it the way we know there must be a toilet paper dispenser, or a cupboard door open because we opened it. We know it, know it without being aware of it.
I am not specifically aware of my bruised eye on the sunny afternoon when David and I stroll arm in arm--he in a suit, I in a dress—stroll arm in arm on our way home from work. Toward us come three men of indeterminant age, maybe homeless, maybe not; maybe sober, maybe not; three cheery fellows who have noticed us, perhaps for the first time.
“Hey,” says one to my gentle, suited David, “your woman’s got a shiner.”
“Oh,” croon his companions, “did you hit your woman? DID YOUUUUUUUUUUUUU hit your woman?????????”
Time stops. Everything is still. There’s a perfectly good explanation, I want to say. I left the cupboard door open and then, stupidly, bent down and hit my eye on it, is what I want to say. They have asked a question. Really, I ought to answer.
But they are not listening. Without intention we have made their day, brought them to a point of jubilation. They are thrilled, exhilarated to accuse a man in a suit of a shameful crime. There is no interest in conversation. This will be a time when we will not have the last word.
There are many things people fear about the inner city, getting mugged, being robbed, encounters with scary strangers. We are aware of these on our daily commute, a little cautious perhaps, though no more cautious than in other neighbourhoods. Still, we never knew, though it was certainly there, that among the dwellers along those streets flows a current of hopeful waiting, waiting for their turn at superiority—waiting for us to fail.
And we never knew—though certainly it was there—that we had been feeling superior to them.

Friday, July 24, 2009


These days, more than ever before, you’re apt to find me out and about, talking to myself. Not that you’ll hear serious confidential conversation about my finances or my love life! No, don’t hope for that. But you might hear me offer a cheerful “Hi!” or maybe, “Yes, isn’t it?” Look around to see who I’m talking to. Chances are, you’ll see nobody.
Cell phones have changed my world. Used to be—and this is what happens if you carry a white cane announcing that you are blind—that strangers would approach me without so much as a hello. “You’re doing fine,” they’d say, not seeing anything I was about to bump into. Alternately, I’d hear, “Curb coming up in 20 feet.” All this was clear enough, still is, for that matter. But many strangers would simply say, “Hi!” or “Nice day, isn’t it?” and I, of course would reply.
Cell phones have changed everything. Here I am, walking down a quiet street, meeting a stranger on the sidewalk. “Hi!” he says. “How are you doing?”
“Fine!” I say.
“I’ll be home in fifteen minutes,” he says.
And it’s oh dear! He as talking on a cell phone. I am talking to myself. What will he think? What if somebody else hears and thinks I’m the kind of person who talks to myself?? Even worse, what if he feels sorry for me because I'm a blind person who can't tell when somebody's talking on a cell phone? I square my shoulders and try to look like the kind of person who talks to herself and doesn’t care what anybody else thinks.
Another day, another encounter. “There’s a big hole!” says a stranger.
Dead in my tracks I stop. Long ago I learned to pay attention to such cues. I think the defining moment was the time I didn’t really listen when somebody mumbled, “Wet concrete!”
Images of the Grand Canyon pop into my head. A big hole? Where? How can I get around it? Will it swallow me up? Patiently I stand, hoping the hole won’t grow. Stranger hurries by. “I know you don’t have time for sewing,” he whines. “That’s why I’m late. I’m taking it to the tailor.”
“You aren’t talking to me,” I say. I didn’t mean to say it out loud, didn’t think I had. But then a second stranger says, “No, I wasn’t.”
Cheeks hot with embarrassment, I will the bus to come, and it does, around the time when it’s supposed to. Safely seated I pull out my cell phone and dial home. “Hello!” he answers.
“Hi,” I say.
“How long until I should start the potatoes?” he says.
“What time is it now?” I ask.
“5:30,” says the person beside me.
And the world is not the predictable place it used to be.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


One of this blog's most loyal helpers has come out of the shadows with a blog of her own. It is a little commentary on moments that make a teacher's job worth doing.
And so it goes  

Monday, July 20, 2009


I've been watching in awe for the past few months as a program for hope and kids developed. It is truly an inspiring program, the brilliant work of my colleague Lenora LeMay, executed with the help of many others. My congratulations go out to everyone who has worked on it. I had intended to write about it, but I give you three links to the work of a better journalist. All three articles cover different content and are well worth reading.

Teens Go to Trade School

McCauley Teens Wipe Out Graffiti

McCauley Students Speak Up

Monday, July 13, 2009


I’ve decided to exercise. O h really, I have! And yes, I can hear some of you laughing.
You are probably remembering the times I said I’d be taking the stairs instead of the elevator because I’d decided to start an exercise program. Or maybe you once heard me say I had started doing sit-ups while listening to talking books. Or you might be recalling the time I bought a treadmill—Millie, I called her—because I’d decided to start an exercise program. And you might have heard how Millie and I got going great guns, and how that continued on until I got really, really tired of Millie, and then she hurt my ankle. And you probably heard that I gave Millie to Ruth, who eventually moved out of the house, taking Millie with her. So I forgive you for laughing.
But I really have decided to start an exercise program. It’s my current hope project. In fact, I have already begun. I have been to five aquafit classes, four deep water and one shallow. So far I haven’t quit. That’s a reason for hope.
To protect myself from failure, I have embarked on this adventure without setting any goals—other than going twice a week--which I suppose is a goal I could fail to meet, though it hasn’t happened yet. Just to be on the safe side, I have promised myself that I won’t panic and end the whole program if it does.
David and Rachel have been helping with the project, getting in the water with me, nurturing my self-esteem with snippets of praise, interpreting the instructor’s instructions, protecting unsuspecting cohorts from the chill of my accidental embrace. Deep or shallow, an arm-flailing blind water-jogger with her ears full of loud music is a dangerous thing.
So I’ve decided to start an exercise program, and that’s all I can say, except that I hope to continue it twice a week, and I hope to be able to go on my own and be included when nobody is available to go with me.
Being included will be the biggest challenge of all, given the barriers that have to be overcome. I need a class in a place I can get to on the bus at a time that works for me, taught by an instructor who can figure out how to include me without excluding others. Not easy, but possible—maybe. Where there’s hope, there is always doubt. Somehow my new program needs to fit in amongst choir practices and evening work commitments. I’m thinking 6:00 AM (Not too difficult to understand why it might be hard to find an exercise companion). And as for a savvy instructor, well, I can assure you that they do exist. I’ve encountered a couple already—though not at 6:00 AM.
So I’ve decided to start an exercise program. Given the number of aches and pains I’ve developed in the past few years it’s the least I can do, a contribution toward physical and meantal wellness, a preventative favour to fellow citizens worrying about how much they’ll have to pay for my future health care. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.