Recently the ARS Directors met one weekend for a special workday to review our Operations Manual. We looked at everything from how we complete a biopsychosocial assessment to how we keep clutter from collecting in the hallways.
The goal was to set a performance standard for the ARS team. A standard is a vision for a more hopeful future. Write that vision down, document it, and that becomes a reality.
“What does your life look like in five years?” The question was asked in a room full of men at the Probation Department. They had had their Driver’s Licenses taken away. They were unemployed. They had been to prison — more than once. They were there because once more they had been arrested or released from jail.
The question was met with silence. These men had less than nothing. Not only did they lack a driver’s license, but they also needed to spend a year in a DUI class, spending money they do not have, to get their driver’s licenses reinstated. Not only did they lack jobs, but they also had criminal records that made getting a job difficult.
Despite your past, a more hopeful future begins today. It starts where you are, not where you were.
It is also true that if you don’t have a vision for where you are going, if you don’t have a standard to strive for, you will never get the there.
Note the difference between a vision filled with hope, and a fantasy filled with resentment. Sometimes we imagine a future, a life we wish we had, and we feel discouraged, even bitter. We blame our circumstances. We blame our parents, our spouses, the system — whatever presents itself that can serve as an excuse for our own lack of motivation.
What’s the difference between a vision for a more hopeful future and a fantasy that feeds resentment?
Slowly, one by one, men on Probation began to share a more hopeful vision for their lives. One said, “I want to own a house.”
What kind of house? How many bedrooms? What does the yard look like? Describe the kitchen. How about the neighborhood. Where is this house?
With a little prompting they were describing modest homes — nothing grandiose. They described reasonable jobs that would afford them a comfortable lifestyle that was truly within reach.
The facilitator had them write down their personal vision for a more hopeful future. The men were setting a standard for their lives.
Then came the question that makes the difference between a more hopeful future, and a discouraging fantasy filled with resentment: “What can you do today, what action can you take right now, what step can take from where you are today that gets you closer to that new reality?
The ARS Directors met over a weekend to envision a more hopeful future for our community. We documented the specific actions we can take today, as individuals, and as the ARS team to build an even more hopeful future.
We believe that every person deserves to live a life of dignity filled with joy in healthy relationship with others. It may seem like a tedious task to sit down and think through and document what we can do to complete a more comprehensive biopsychosocial assessment. Or what we can do to assure the hallway does not get filled with clutter.
But it is the work we do. And when we do it well, men and women who have no hope, men and women discouraged and resentful and filled with shame step forward strong into a new life, and into a more hopeful future filled with joy and in healthy relationship with others.