May 26, 2020

Dear Hope Nation,

Change has been my focus for the past two-and-a-half months, and quite rightly so. As you know, almost 100,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, the unemployment rate in New Hampshire is around 20%, and Hope for New Hampshire Recovery has been closed since March 15. Other than wearing a mask, washing my hands and practicing social distancing, I can’t personally do much about the pandemic. Other than not laying off any employees I can’t do much about New Hampshire’s unemployment rate. Hope’s closing, and soon, reopening, though, does offer possibilities for action.

As regular readers know, Hope has been working steadily during the closure to bring about changes so we can safely reopen. For example:

  1. We’ve purchased and are trying to perfect technology so we can offer a hybrid of in-person and virtual (Zoom) meetings that will be equally satisfying for folks in the room and folks on a screen. There will be compromises, as there are with most changes, but we want to provide the most meaningful experience possible.
  2. We’ve stockpiled personal protective equipment to last for at least the first 90 days after reopening, with practices in place to continue reordering to maintain supplies.
  3. We’re writing protocols for all staff and all spaces at Hope to try to prevent the spread of the virus while maintaining social distancing.
  4. We’ve identified the maximum capacity of each meeting room, and redesigned Hope’s physical layout so as many people as possible can safely be in the building.

And on and on and on.

In short, we’ve been focused on change.

Today, though, I’d like to focus on things that will remain. Foundations. Bedrocks. First principles. While change and transformation may be the gods of this age, humans need constancy as well. At least I need continuity.

(A brief aside. Sometimes I am accused, by my friends on the political right, of being a flaming liberal because I embrace experimentation and love to try new ideas. Just as often, my left-wing friends accuse me of being a rock-ribbed conservative because I believe in rewarding hard work and see spiritual damage in many social welfare programs. I am a radical moderate, and as all students of history know, I will be among the first killed at the onset of any revolution whether from the left or right.)

Given a need for balance, since we’ve focused on change at Hope, I’d now like to outline just a few of the things that will not change as long as I’m director at Hope.

  1. Members and guests will be treated with respect. If you feel mocked, dismissed, or marginalized by any staff person, I want to know about it right away. Ashley, Bob, Dave, Dawn, Jill, Karla and I want every person who walks through the door to know he or she matters. Respect doesn’t mean agreement; it means disagreeing in a way that demonstrates understanding and caring.
  2.  Staff will be treated with respect. This doesn’t mean sucking up, toadying, obeying out of fear. It means treating folks with the same regard you’d like to receive. I and the rest of the staff are servants—we are here to help you find and strengthen recovery—we are not slaves.
  3. All pathways, whether formal or informal, will be honored and respected. Whether you find recovery through 12-Step programs, SMART Recovery, Recovery Dharma, 3 Principles, a combination or no program at all, we will help you along your path.
  4. Art and creativity will be encouraged and supported, through words and through provision of materials. Painting, writing, music, dancing or any other artistic endeavor is now central to many folks recovery, and we want to make sure that continues.
  5. Community for the sake of community will matter. While social distancing will offer challenges, simply spending time with others in recovery makes a world of difference for humans.

And on and on and on.

I’ve written elsewhere about how little I like mission statements, but here I’ll contradict myself and offer a short-term mission statement for the next few weeks and months:

We will not change who we are, but we will change the things we do.

You matter. I matter. We matter.

Keith