Story by: Casey Gwinn, Alliance President
Dear Friends and Supporters of Alliance for HOPE International,
This is, without question, one of the most extraordinary, anxious, and challenging periods of global crisis in any of our lifetimes. No one could have imagined six months ago that this pandemic would be unleashed on the world and cause such illness, fear, heartbreak, and death. We should weep with those who weep and we must be wise in our choices and actions – knowing that our choices may impact or even endanger the lives of others. Our hearts go out to health care workers and many other frontline workers and first responders. We celebrate and honor your courage and love for those in need.
Science must guide the way for all of us. While we missed the opportunity in the US to avoid and dramatically mitigate this pandemic, we now must try to reduce its spread as much as possible. It is time to be as safe as possible, quarantine if we can, wash our hands, wipe down everything touched by others, keep our hands away from our faces after they touch things and surfaces, maintain social distancing, and stay as healthy as we can. I agree with those who are saying, “ASSUME YOU HAVE COVID-19, EVEN IF YOU DON’T, AND ACT ACCORDINGLY.” We are now in a world war against an invisible enemy. But in listening to the Science of COVID-19, don’t forget the Science of HOPE as you navigate through this maze with your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors. And don’t forget the deep need in our lives to still connect with others, celebrate life, laughter, and love as we keep finding hope. The Science of COVID-19 and the Science of HOPE must both be high priorities.
In our particular work, we must also offer help and support for victims of domestic violence and child abuse – now twice terrorized. First, they faced the existing pandemic of domestic violence that killed more than 50,000 women last year on planet earth. Now, they face the COVID-19 pandemic, dramatically increasing their danger and reducing their resources and options for safety and health. We are beginning to hear of murders and suicides which are likely to rise because of domestic violence and the loss of hope.
In my book, written with Chan Hellman, Hope Rising: How the Science of HOPE Can Change Your Life, we talked about the need of every human being to live in a “culture of hope.” Today, we are living in a culture of fear and anxiety. Many of us even feel paralyzed from fear and anxiety. It can easily suck us in and rob us of hope. Fear and anxiety are not our pathways to wellbeing as we seek to maintain our immune systems and our mental, spiritual, and physical health. We all need to cultivate a different culture around us rather than letting the biological and emotional stress we are experiencing weaken us. Hope is the belief that your future can be better than your past and that you play a role in making it so by the goals you set and pathways you identify to get to your goals. I am not talking about optimism or wishful thinking. “I hope COVID-19 goes away next week” is not really a hopeful statement because you have no control over how COVID-19 spreads around the world. It is simply a wish thrown into the universe and perhaps even a delusion. We need concrete hope.
To be hopeful in these times of fear and anxiety, you need to pick and pursue goals you have some control over each day. We included this statement in Hope Rising: “Once we truly understand hope, we can choose to believe in it and then work for it. After we set goals we can achieve individually, we can recruit others to join us and help them find hope too.” “Working for it” means setting goals every day that you can control. In the days ahead, don’t focus on what you cannot control. You can set a goal to take a walk, listen to great music, do a home improvement project, spend time in prayer or meditation — praying for or meditating over all those that are sick. You can donate food to a local food bank, support domestic and sexual violence programs, read a good book, make a list of things you are grateful for in life, write some encouraging texts and emails to those you love to give them hope, or think up one of a hundred other things you can personally accomplish today or within the next week. Reminder: Sitting in front of the TV watching the news all day every day or sitting with your computer scanning social media 18 hours per day is not a pathway to hope in your life.
We need to cultivate hope each day in our own lives and the lives of those we love throughout this global crisis. Remember: You cannot give what you do not have. We all need hope in our lives. I just saw the inspiration of an amazing nurse in New York City named Emily Fawcett who started daily “Hope Huddles” in her acute care hospital to share the saves and the wins with each other in the darkest of times. Don’t forget that hope was the only thing left in Pandora’s Box after a pandemic of illness, disease, evil, and calamity had been unleashed on the earth. And it was the only thing that could make a difference for all those suffering through the darkness, anxiety, and fear. It was the truth behind Greek mythology and it is still true for each of us today.
Our organization, as most of you know, Alliance for HOPE International, was scheduled to host a major conference in San Diego, May 19-21 – called the International Family Justice Center Conference. As is true for most of you, our work focuses on helping adults and children who are impacted by sexual and domestic violence. We develop and support Family Justice Centers with multi-agency services for victims of domestic and sexual violence. We address the handling of the most dangerous men, stranglers of women, and the profound physical and mental impacts of those assaults on women in our Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention. We also run the largest camping and mentoring program in the country called Camp HOPE America for children impacted by domestic violence. With the support of Verizon and many generous donors, our camp must now create new pathways for kids to find hope in this crisis instead of just large gatherings. We must now postpone our conference until September and perhaps adjust our camp activities this summer. We will not compromise or risk our staff’s safety or health or the health of any of our attendees at our conference or kids at our camps by going forward if it is not safe, but we also know the emotional impacts on many if we completely stop services, cancel our events permanently, or eliminate all camps for kids this summer. So, we will set a goal we can still try to achieve in September with the conference and we will plan different types of opportunities for children. We will not cancel. We will set new goals. We will creatively think of new pathways. We all need to keep casting a vision and pursuing it in our lives.
Most all social, sports, political, and conference events scheduled in the next eight weeks are being cancelled right now. The NBA has been cancelled. March Madness has been cancelled. The MLB season openers have been cancelled. Thousands of events and gatherings have been cancelled. These are all responsible acts given the Science of COVID-19. But the Science of HOPE supports Jaime Tworkowski’s words:
“Conversations will not be cancelled.
Relationships will not be cancelled.
Love will not be cancelled.
Songs will not be cancelled.
Reading will not be cancelled.
Self-care will not be cancelled.
Hope will not be cancelled.
May we lean into the good stuff that remains.”
We must all find ways to set new goals and creatively figure out how to support victims of domestic and sexual violence and their children across this country and around the world. Our calling is to still find hope in our own lives and keep offering it to others.
In Hope Rising, Dr. Chan Hellman and I closed with this meditation:
“When we feel trapped in the anxiety of today, hope reminds us that we need not be there forever…
When we feel stuck looking back, hope calls us to look forward…
When we are demoralized, hope can point us toward friends that will lift our spirits…
When we fear the worst, hope reminds us that God is still in control…
When we are suffering from the actions of others, hope is a pathway to resilience…
When the diagnosis is grim, hope calls us to battle for survival…
When we feel bound in the darkness of despair, hope reminds us there is a way to the light…
When a dream does not come true, hope lights the fire to dream again…
When we must say goodbye to those we love, hope reminds us that the best is yet to come.”
We must practice both the Science of HOPE and the Science of COVID-19. Apply the Science of COVID-19 today: Read this important CDC information about the coronavirus and talk it through with someone you love and care about in your life. Apply the Science of HOPE today: Set one life-giving goal and accomplish it. Encourage all those you love to do the same. It will feed your souls. And don’t forget to keep living, loving, and laughing while we are finding our way forward through this unprecedented and challenging moment in human history.
Casey Gwinn is the President of Alliance for HOPE International. He is the visionary behind the Family Justice Center movement in America and around the world and the founder of Camp HOPE America. He is also the co-author of ten books including his newest book, Hope Rising: How the Science of HOPE Can Change Your Life (2018).