Message from the Head: Hope

Jason HeissererUncategorized

Friends,

What might we do to begin 2017 with hope? I have struggled with this a bit. All of us no matter our point of view can list life events of the past year, from personal, community, regional, or national experiences, that defy the notion that hope alone will light the way forward.

In her essay, “The Small Work in the Great Work,” Victoria Safford calls us “to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope” which she describes as being a bit wider than the gates of Optimism, less strident than the gates of Self Righteousness, and less flimsy than the gate of “Everything is gonna be alright.” She continues by writing that hope is “the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it will be.”

So I suggest that we begin with the work of cultivating hope for the new year by seeing the world, that part of the world that is close to us and those parts that are more distant or out of the range of our experience, as it is. This will require honest and critical observation as well as understanding that our personal experience cannot be generalized in just and equitable ways beyond just that: our personal experience.

I suggest that we continue to cultivate hope for the new year by seeing the world, both up close and far away, is it could be, and if you are more insistent, as it will be. Hope that is aspirational will keep the gate to which Safford refers wider than the gate of optimism alone. I think going in this order, from what is to what could be, to what will be, grounds our aspiration in such a way that we come to understand what we must do, on behalf of ourselves and others, in order to engage in a hopeful 2017.

Safford also writes in her essay that we must stand at the gates of Hope “beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing, asking people what they see.” Calling out to one another in this way requires trust, honesty, and vulnerability as we speak and as we listen. It requires us to be in relationship, and it makes space for what is true of our lived experience and what we believe for our common experience going forward.

For me, the gates of Hope for 2017, the piece of ground from which I take my vantage point, is Crossroads. At its center, Crossroads is the 229 young people representing a range of likenesses and differences, a range of viewpoints and experiences, and a range of possibilities beyond what I can predict or imagine. If I want to see the world as it is, if I want to imagine what the world will be, I only need to ask, to watch, and to listen to our students, for among them are the leaders, the creators, the designers, and the problem solvers for a hopeful 2017 and beyond.

With great expectations,
Jason