This morning began like most mornings as I awoke at 5am and headed out the door with my dog Romey to meet my friend and colleague, who is also my neighbor, for our morning walk. Before Roberta moved to our neighborhood, and long before I had Romey, I still walked in the early morning by myself. Perhaps there is a little motivation in that our walk circles by Starbucks, but I am not one to judge or deny coffee as a motivator for getting going each day!
I have been walking before dawn since I can remember, and one thing I often tell myself is that if I can maintain walking through the darkest days of the year, I can walk anytime. Today, December 21 is the shortest day of the year, and as Roberta and I bundled up in hats, gloves, and good reflective clothing, we remembered the summer days at the same time in the morning, walking in the sun and rising heat of the day.
Today in our town there will be an evening vigil that marks the shortest day of the year, and remembers those in the homeless community who passed away this year. The vigil is held to draw attention to those who have lost hope, and as a reminder that even on the darkest of days, the light of hope is possible.
Last night, the local news did a story on a man who heads up the kitchen at the Union Gospel Mission in Portland. As he proudly swung a steaming hot tray of stuffed green peppers out of the oven he shared his story – how years of abuse and addiction had left him without hope. Until the day he turned his life around and found renewed meaning, hope, and purpose in being alive. The result of this renewal, he said, is the opportunity to give back to others by cooking at the mission.
Hope-Purpose-Contribution to others. There it is again: the connection between thriving and giving back.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Angela Duckworth in her book on Grit, makes a clear connection between grit and hope. Hope is not just belief in better luck tomorrow, but in knowing that a better tomorrow comes about through the thoughts and actions taken each day. Hope grows in not giving up, but in getting up and trying again. And again. Growing hope happens when we learn to be open to learning and challenge; when we change our mindset from one of helplessness to one of optimism; and when we are surrounded by people who support and mentor us – people who believe in us until we are able to believe in ourselves.
As the shortest day of the year comes and goes, and we make our way through the rest of the holiday season into the new year, the dawn will come earlier each day. The light will return, and all of us will resume our work in helping youth thrive.
As you finish this year, I hope you will take some time to reflect on your work with youth – and the many ways you have helped grow hope. In acts big and small, we are all contributing to a hopeful future for the youth with whom we work.
The Helping Youth Thrive Blog will be back again after New Years. In the meantime, be well, one and all.