Hope, part 5 (the work)

As unlikely as it may seem, I am blogging about advent hope in the midst of a statewide public health meeting (I am on lunch break…not multitasking!). The focus of my meeting is to create a united, statewide focus to actually move the needle and measure a significant reduction in infant mortality in four years. I am at this meeting today in my professional capacity as a researcher. I have been like a sponge absorbing epidemiological data all morning and, as I am trained to do, translating that into community level implementation strategies that can be carried out and evaluated. It is my professional mission to move data and talk to action, and then to derive data from those actions that can tell the story of change. It occurred to me today, while wrapped in the midst of this meeting, that this whole process is all about hope. Waiting…and working…in hope.

So, I started to think about that idea…waiting and working in hope. I want to refute the assumption that “waiting” is a passive state. In fact, there is a lot of activity that happens while waiting. Particularly when I am waiting in hope, I feel a push to do my part. I am challenged to enact what is in my authority and experience to change. I am constantly brainstorming with others who have different roles, and different expertise. New ideas emerge, and they require time to work through, money to implement, dedicated people to carry out. When I am engaged in something really innovative, it involves a fair amount of risk even when the project is in full swing. Will our efforts pay off in the ways hoped for? Will the data we collect reveal the difference that we are hoping to make?

There is a lot of hope there….and a lot of work, too. It takes an inner motivation to move forward without knowing for sure what the data will show. Michael Lu (a professional hero in my maternal and child health world) uses the term “unwarranted optimism” to describe the inner push to make a difference…in this case, to move the needle on disparities in fetal and infant mortality…even when we can’t yet see the ultimate impact of our efforts. In public health and social work, we have to share this unwarranted optimism in order to do what we do every day. We put people on our leadership and community teams who can keep that unwarranted optimism high. And we put data geeks on our teams to give us glimpses of accomplishment and progress markers that help us “tweak” our efforts and make the most impact we can. And, we need lots and lots of dedicated workers who are carrying out the mission every day.

The parallels between my professional mission and my faith journey are palpable to me today. In my own hopeful waiting, I am discerning how my vocational path and my faith journey intersect right here, right now and what this means as my future path emerges. That process is also an active one, where I work on my spiritual centering, and discern in my heart, my head, and my soul as well as within my community. I catch glimpses of inspiration and take steps forward with intention, all the while being open to the possibility of tweaking, changing, evolving my role in the world. I do all this while I engage my professional mission and weave my vocational threads together day by day, step by step.

I have unwarranted optimism…and faith…in the future that is emerging day by day.

This advent, I am waiting…and working…in hope.

About harasprice

Professor of Social Work and Priest in The Episcopal Church, parent, teacher, learner, writer, advocate, and grateful traveller along this journey through life
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