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.

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