Friday, June 24, 2011


Have you ever discovered, to your utter surprise, that a milestone you’ve been chasing has somehow been reached—and you didn’t even notice? Well, if it hasn’t happened to you, as I suppose it possibly has not, that I truly hope it will.
This week it happened to me. The realization dawned with startling clarity in the middle of Wednesday afternoon as I distractedly jotted rushed notes in preparation for a Thursday lunch meeting. I answered a phone call, made an appointment, then returned to my notes. I read over the first point. The first point said: We now have an identifiable, replicable transferable body of knowledge that we can use for practice, research and teaching. In our own practice we refer to it as Hope-Focused Counselling, or simply Hope Work. In the teaching context we call it Hope and Strengths Tools For Counselling and Group Work. It was a surprise to see that I had written this, and also that I could provide evidence that it was true.
I was not the only one working on notes. Preparing notes for the same meeting, our Director of Research, dr. Denise Larsen had written: “Our research appears to be the only sustained, ongoing program of applied research on hope in the world. Specifically, we research *how* to work effectively with hope. This draws international attention, including international visitors and correspondence, and some programming. Our service programs are documented and delivered in a manner that makes them highly researchable. Indeed, we have ongoing funded programs of research with both our school-based work and community counselling service. In short, we are a well-organized and collaborative team, working to the mutual benefit of our research and service. This makes it possible to provide very unique research of excellent quality with high external validity to international practice and research communities.”
Across the room at the meeting sat Lenora LeMay, the team member who has done parallel work beside me for years, adapting hope tools and strategies for use in classroom setting and youth projects. It is Lenora who made a book of my early group work with teachers on disability. It is Lenora who offered a conversion of the boring counselling and research language of hope threats and barriers to the vibrant engaging language that describes threats and barriers as hope-suckers.
It takes a team of extraordinary people to create an on-going sustained program of applied research on hope. You could see it at the meeting. There were people who had supported the Hope Foundation for a long, long time, and people who were quite new to the work, yet very interested. The were people who had played multiple roles, board members who had used the hope materials in their places of employment, board members who had once been clients, staff who had been clients or volunteers.
Not in the room, but still very present, was Dr. Ronna Jevne, the person who started the Hope Foundation, the one who introduced me to hope work back in 1995. At that time we had the writings of a few wise hope theorists, combined with Ronna’s practical ideas, her inspiring presence and her unshakable commitment to building a resource team that could develop the practice of hope work. The objective of having an identifiable, replicable transferable body of knowledge that could be used for practice, research and teaching was her goal. Not an aim that could be accomplished by a single individual or in a neatly defined plan, it was the type of thing that could only be advanced by many cogs in a wheel of human effort rolling forward.
Call me a cog! This is the end of a week during which I felt particularly proud to be part of a team that has worked hard in relative obscurity for a long time on something that felt important. I felt enthusiastic about the prospect of working with the foundation that has been laid. As I left the meeting to begin a conversation with a client who was in pain, I turned for direction to the body of knowledge that informs our counselling and group work. That body of knowledge, ever growing, open to investigation, translatable into formats that meet the continuing heducation requirements for various professions, felt important still.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


On the first day of summer we sat on the veranda,
Watching the robbin on her nest and sipping a beer.
And after deconstructing the day’s most boring meetings,
And reliving the thunderstorms, and lamenting things that didn’t go as planned,
What else was there to do but give ourselves completely
To unbridled celebration of a perfect June evening
In the company of flowers on the world’s most exquisite veranda?

Monday, June 13, 2011


I’d never heard of Kathryn Tucker Wyndham when first I went to hear her tell stories in a huge tent in Jonesborough Tennessee. I’ve never forgotten her since. Her first story was about a man named Ernest who gave a legacy donation to the public library in Selma Alabama. It was a library he had not been permitted ot use as a boy—because his skin was black. The second story she told was about the Sunday afternoon comb concerts on the lawn of the Selma Library, concerts at which everyone can play. The third story was about her coffin, fashioned under her direction by a craftsman friend from the finest wood, now waiting in her garage, buried under piles of unused china and other household goods.
She was 88 years old when I first heard her stories. So inspiring were they that they took my breath away.
It is easy to watch a little of Kathryn Tucker Wyndham. The Montgomery advertiser has saved her for us at Kathryn Tucker Wyndham Dies at 93 I am grateful that it is easy to see you on line Kathryn. I wasn’t ready to give you up yet.
I shall think about you, Kathryn, when I need to find hope: that the world can be more tolerant; that elderhood will be a time of learning good things; that laughter can overcome just about anything; that we can choose the best from history and use it to give hope to others. I shall think about you, Kathryn, and thinking about you will give me hope.

Friday, June 10, 2011


To spend ten joyful seconds celebrating the achievement of Mark David Edey above all the others in the crowd,
To hear, as an added bonus, Dr. Indira V. Samarasekera, President of the university of Alberta, give a speech on imagination. Spring Convocation June 9, 2011
She started with humour. “Your parents,” she said, “are thrilled to know that they have done at least one thing right. ... If there’s something special you’ve always wanted, now would be a good time to mention it.”
She expressed confidence. “I’m sure all of you have the imagination to navigate life, and find fulfilment by making a contribution.”
She began in the present and moved to the future. “The skills and knowledge that you leave with today will help you get started, but in the future it willl be your capacity to keep learning and to imagine a different and better future that will be more valuable than anything.”
And finally, she said “Pay attention to your imagination. Your imagination can be aforce for great good. ... Take care of your imagination. Use it freely but wisely.”
It was a great speech, the kind of thing that cheers the heart of a HOPE LADY.
Knowing that he has had enough of university for the time being, I asked Mark David Edey what he would like to learn in the future. He said he would like to learn more about the processes that help us learn to read. A fitting beginning, I thought, for an avid reader planning a career working with those for whom the easy joy of reading must all too often be a figment of imagination.
More on future wishes for Mark can be found at HAPPY GRADUATION

Saturday, June 04, 2011


Because they’ve been disappointed when they’ve hoped before
Because depression blinds them to the hope that other people see,
Because they are bruised from too many hurts in quick succession
Because they were born with a personality that tends not to hope,
Because they aren’t in the habit of expressing their hope.

All of these are reasons why they don’t have hope.
But that doesn’t mean they can’t.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


The Montreal Gazette reports that the Energizer Battery Company is changing its tag line from “keep going” to “now that’s positivenergy.”
"When we look at consumer themes and underlying universal truths, the Energizer Bunny is very well positioned to be a sign of optimism and hope,” says Kent Hatton, brand group director at Energizer Canada Inc.
With the change of tagline comes a corporate commitment to donate money to environmental causes, and a website encouraging people to support good causes and perform acts of kindness.
Only time will tell whether the Energizer Bunny can become a sign of hope and optimism. Marketing aspirations notwithstanding, the tagline transformation has a familiar ring. As one who has discussed hope with many people, I can honestly say that it is common for them to start out plodding, to keep going, taking one step at a time to cope with illness or adversity. Then, over time, a transformation occurs and they begin to gather positive energy, to join forces, and to take action.
Looking to the future, a doubtful person might accuse the company of cloaking a marketing strategy in the garb of charity. A hopeful person, on the other hand, would wait and see. It just might be possible for a company to promote its own products and do good for the world at the same time—using the symbolism and language of hope.