August 14, 2020
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National Leaders in the Mental Health Aspects
of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Make HOPE a Verb
by Jill Hinton, CSS Clinical Director
I returned from a visit with the CA START San Andrea team late on March 13. And March 14 began my own ‘stay at home’ period. If you are like me, the beginning was measured in days - 3rd day of quarantine, 8th day of quarantine, 26th day of quarantine… but days became weeks, and weeks now have become months of being physically distanced from each other.
During times of uncertainty, we traditionally lean on each other – both figuratively and literally. So physical touch and close proximity are sorely missed. It is a hard time. And in hard times, human connection - a hug from a friend, a shared cup of coffee, conversation over a beer – is what we have relied on. Without these comforts, it is easy to slip into negativity and despair.  I am certain we have all felt this way at different times over the past few months.

Let’s think about HOPE – not in a trite way of ‘just have hope and things will get better”.  And not in any way minimizing where we are now. As we think about hope, keep in mind that hope is the only positive emotion that requires negativity or uncertainty in order to be activated.  If we didn’t have uncertainty about the future, there would be no need for hope.
Recently, a professor at the Univ of Montana issued an invitation for people to write 19 words or less about hope in these times. Listen to some of the responses:
  • “Walking down the trail-slowly, quietly; looking for little fox ears poking out of the den again this year.” 
  • “Hope is staring at the blue eyes of my grand-daughter as we FaceTime a lesson on the letter ‘B.’”
  • Hope - “Howling for health care workers every night."
  • “Hope is my wife, holding our infant son, commenting how the birdsong outside the window reminds her of Spring.”
  • “Hope -  The work of humans/To slip from darkness/Rioting into the light.”
Hope is usually defined as a noun: ‘a feeling of expectation’. But paying attention to the previous words on hope, we heard words like walking, looking, staring, howling, holding, commenting, and rioting. Did you notice that these are not nouns?  
Our friend and colleague Dan Tomasulo, who has just written a book called Learned Hopefulness, describes hope as a verb. That is what we heard in those words about hope. We heard active verbs. Dan also suggests that as hope is practiced, then hope is learned, hope is cultivated, and hope and resilience blossom. 
If we begin to treat hope as a verb, we don’t wait for something to happen, we make something happen. This can be helpful to our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being during this time. Each day, making something happen. It doesn’t always have to be big and monumental. But practicing hope, builds hope.
  • On some days, hope may be cleaning out a drawer or pulling weeds
  • On some days, hope may be noticing the beauty of the birds at the feeder
  • Hope may be reaching out to a friend
  • Hope may be writing your city council about housing
  • Hope may be taking a walk around your neighborhood
  • And on some days, hope may be shouting and protesting, speaking truth to power.
As we continue through this pandemic as a START community of hope, let’s all find ways to make hope a verb – for our own well-being and for the well-being of our fellow humans.  

Thanks for reading and happy Friday,

The Center for START Services
Copyright © 2020 Center for START Services, All rights reserved.

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Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire