Saturday, March 31, 2012


Drawn by the song of a bird so sweet
That I could not help but envy his mate
I stepped out the door in the sun to greet the promise of a late March day.
Where geese were honking, crows were cawing, magpies magging, swparrows tweeting.
Robins nesting and ten thousand waxwings had come to our block
To feast for a pleasant hour.
So even though the forecast says, “SNOW!”
And I cannot pretend that I have not heard,
I’ll remember the birds saying,
“Spring’s the word.”

Friday, March 30, 2012


This week my colleagues and I have been charting the history of success of the Hope Foundation of Alberta. It’s been inspiring to see how much things have changed since 1992, when there was no defined field of hope studies, no international database of hope research literature, no book of practices and strategies for nurturing hope in children, no structured approach to bringing out hope while listening to stories, no organized collection of hope and strengths tools for counselling and group work,. But from my vantage point, the most inspiring part of all is that while these developments were occurring, the Hope Foundation was providing direct, services to many of the most disadvantaged citizens of our city and province. We were creating a better life through counselling for people who had been told by their physicians that there was no counselling they could get unless they paid a lot. We were training staff at charitable organizations who had no budget for staff development, only budget for service to their clients. We were helping schools develop hope programs to change the lives of students in ways that will remain untested now, but will reveal themselves 20 years from now. How did we do this? you ask. Well, that’s a long and complicated story.
It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a remarkable combination of skills and attitudes to keep such a high level of momentum going for 20 years. After all that hard work, you would think we might simply sit down on our 20th birthday and celebrate for a while. But instead, we are engaged in a process of restructuring the organization that will carry us into the future.
I have been through processes of restructuring before—both at Hope Foundation and other places. Thinking back to those days, to the worst days of restructuring, I recall angry meetings, fearful meetings, frustrated meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings!!!!!!! Sometimes, in a desperate search for a simple hope, I’ve thought, “Won’t it be nice when I’m 80 years old and nobody expects me to put my effort into restructuring?”
And then, a few moments or a few days later, I start to notice the 80-year-olds in my life. What are they doing? They’re restructuring, having meetings, meeting with their doctors, their lawyers, their realtors, their families. The healthy ones—healthy in the whole-person sense—are facing reality and being hopeful at the same time, maybe even being hopeful first, trusting that reality will be there regardless. I look at the healthiest of them, and I see the models for how I want to be, then and now.
So how do I feel whenever the challenge of restructuring is presented to me, at work and elsewhere? I mean, honestly. How do I feel? Well, sometimes I am hopeful, sometimes not so much. But it’s the same day on any given day whether or not I am hopeful. Only the possibilities of how I will act are different. On days when I am not hopeful there are still possibilities, only I don’t see them. And that is why, when I have the choice, I would choose to be hopeful. Sometimes I can, and sometimes I can’t. When I can’t, then I have to wait until I can.
Charting our history of success is ever so much more hopeful than starting with our biggest problem and expecting an immediate solution. This is the philosophy that has made our counselling program such a success. How grateful I am to be working in an environment that compels me to work from a hope perspective. We still have the meetings, but we also have the philosophy and relationships to support us in hope while we chart the next steps on the path of success that will bring surprising results in the next 20 years.
As I write this, I am preparing for a hope presentation to women seeking help from the Elizabeth Fry Society. With all that they have faced, and al lthat they are facing, you’d think they’d have no hope. But they’ll have hope all right, and thanks to 20 years of successful work done by so many people associated with Hope Foundation, I’ll have the tools to help them find it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Audacious hopers hope for things no practical person would dream of hoping for, things we are certain can never happen, given the current circumstances. Audacious hopers have led the way to change throughout the history of humankind, and they are, thankfully, here with us today.
One of my favourite audacious hopers is Lenora M. LeMay, a long-time colleague at the Hope Foundation of Alberta. It is to her that I turn when I need to catch a case of hopefulness. It is from her that I often borrow hope to tide me over when my own supply gets low.
That said, the process of hoping that happens between Lenora and me is rarely a simple unfolding of positivity. I often try to convince her that things are impossible. I try hard and I ought to be able to succeed at this. I can be very persuasive when I make up my mind to be. But Lenora has a way of refusing to take “no” for an answer. If I say a thing can’t be done, she says it can. If I say: “Tell me how,” she comes up with some idea that has at least 10,000 flaws when I count them. That’s the thing that makes Lenora my hope hero. She sees possibilities where I don’t.
The results of Lenora’s hope-motivated persistance combined with her boundless energy can be seen in so many accomplishments credited to the Hope Foundation over the past dozen years. Because of her, Norquest College started a program of hope studies embraced by many health care professionals. Because of her, there is a book of strategies and practices for doing hope work in classrooms. Because of her, the work of the THI, arguably the most important research project I did at Hope Foundation was finally documented—eight years after I finished working on it. Because of her, the administrative structure of Hope Foundation has functioned through hard times without sacrificing any of the program areas.
Even as I write this, I can hear Lenora reading it. I know what you are saying, Lenora. You are saying, “Oh stop! I didn’t do any of this alone. All my colleagues helped, and so many people from outside as well. Board members helped me. Kids helped me. Teachers helped me. My husband helped me.”
This, Lenora, is definitely true. But I hardly think that you can seriously deny that your steadfastness is the common factor in all these examples. Audacious hopers inspire others and make room for them to help when there’s work to be done. There’s probably no limit to the number of things that can be accomplished if you decide not to care who gets the credit.
Over the years I’ve learned, usually later than I wanted to, to step back and watch you in curious wonder. I have noticed how, at some point, I then find it impossible to stay back. Compelled by an irresistible force that can only be labelled as hope, I find myself joining you in trying to make possible the thing I wanted all along.
It’s scary to work with audacious hopers. They test our courage. They dare us to disappoint them. We are constantly challenged to position ourselves in relation to them, to search ourselves for that which matters most. Sometimes audacious hopers make us want to hide. Hiding seems easier than facing the hard stuff.
My years at Hope Foundation have exposed my ears to the stories told by thousands of audacious hopers in the heady days after success—large or small--has been attained. These stories challenge me to wonder what I would have done if they had asked for my help during the trying time. From this has come one firm conclusion. When audacious hopers tell their stories, about the people they met on the journey, I’d rather be listed with the ones who supported than named as a barrier that had to be thwarted.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Everyone ought to have a friend like my friend Jim, a man who goes out of his way to send me information that ought to give me hope. Last week he sent along an article about Annie Glenn, wife of the famous astronaut John Glenn. Limited by a stuttering disability, she was successfully treated.
John Glenn’s True Hero

Sunday, March 04, 2012


When reporters ask how to refer to performer Rae Spoon, Ray replies, "I prefer to be referred to as "they". There are so many things we would not guess--a good reason to ask.

Saturday, March 03, 2012


I liked the time in Calgary with the Carewest Day Hospital staff,
Workshopping hope and compassion fatigue with 2 family physicians, 2 nurses, 2 secretaries, 6 therapy assistants/aides, 2 physiotherapists, 2 occupational therapists, 2 recreation therapists, 2 social workers, 1 psychologist, 1 SLP, 1 geriatric psychiatrist and a manager.
I liked the way we worked together,
How they whined: “If your chronic pain group gets 2 hours for a hope collage, why do we only get 45 minutes?”
I liked the excellent food at the FCJ Christian Life Centre
And the memory of my previous night spent imagining a nun’s past life in a convent many times re-invented since 1893
“I hope everything suited you well,” said the smiling hostess who bid us farewell at day’s end.
“You say it was a workshop, but it sounded like a playshop to me.”

Thursday, March 01, 2012


A tip of the hope hat to Edmonton's last milkman on his final run; Barry Svederus retires Friday after 34 years, marking the end of an era
Sometimes you hear the most amazing stories about being hired against the odds. They give you hope when you despair at how difficult it can be to find work. How I wish I’d seen this story earlier this week, when I was searching for hopeful stories to tell at our hope and strengths group for people with chronic pain. People were saying it was unlikely that they could be hired, given some of their life conditions.
That conversation, quite naturally, led me to want to tell them a story about an unlikely hiring event. Of all the getting-hired stories I’ve heard, I do believe this one takes the cake.
‘A native of tiny Elnora, Svederus was working at a cannery in Wetaskiwin when he sought a job driving a milk truck in Edmonton.

Arriving for his interview at the former home of the City Dairy, a building off Jasper Avenue that had a towering milk bottle on its roof, he was hired,
even though he applied in his bare feet.

As a joke that day, friends had filled his only pair of dress shoes with ballbearing grease.

"I think they hired me out of pity," Svederus says.

"They figured I was so poor I didn't own a pair of shoes."’