Hope is the only currency we really deal in. Not false promises. Not dreams of a better day. Hope is a nuanced belief that life is worth living; that tomorrow can be better than today; that next week can be better than this week; that next month can be better than this month; that next year can be better than this year. Hope is about leaning into expectation, while concurrently creating the reality of that expectation. To have hope is to take meaningful action toward a desire future. As a belief, hope requires us to move from a crossing of the fingers and wishing upon a star to doing the work to create the desired future we want.
Hope is difficult to quantify. There are not any reliable “hope” performance metrics. How many times did you help a family or person experiencing homelessness find hope? is not a common reporting question – nor should it be. Yet, if you don’t believe and support hope for every person you serve, you are likely in the wrong profession. You can’t say you support hope for some people you serve, but not for others. You can’t decide that some people are lost causes. The moment you think some people will never escape homelessness for stable housing is the same moment that you likely reached your tipping point of burn-out. Hope is essential for trauma-informed care and the spiritual scarring that comes with living through an exacerbated traumatic cycle. The impacts of the trauma may never totally heal, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to abandon hope or to think that recovery is hopeless.
Hope is one of the foundations of a recovery-orientation to this work. A future where people move forward from the impacts of their mental illness is one that requires hope. Reclaiming capabilities, rights, responsibilities, roles and the like will not happen without hope. Hope makes us champions of a future not yet realized. Ask yourself not only if you believe in hope – but if you are living hope. And if you are not, then time for deep reflection on how you put hope into practice.