Published author, leadership and organizational development mentor, inspirational speaker, advocate for cold noses as healers Architecting a social movement of unconditional listening one voice, one story at a time
To the supporters of Hope Has a Cold Nose,
There can be miracles when you believe
Though hope is frail, it’s hard to kill
Who knows what miracles
You can achieve
When you believe somehow you will
You will when you believe
Lyrics from “When you Believe”; Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston
Perhaps I had heard the lyrics twenty years ago when this song was first introduced in 1999. It felt like I was hearing them for the first time a couple of weeks ago while listening to Pentatonix sing the words on a Christmas CD. Then again, I am more aware than I was twenty years ago of just how fragile hope is for so many.
Recently I had the honor of speaking to an audience whose mission as members is Service Above Self. I was graciously invited to speak as author and life story writer. Early into the presentation I shared a quote by Cheryl Richardson, a New York Times best-selling author of several books: People start to heal the moment they feel heard.
I am not sure how many in the audience are veterans or have a personal connection with someone who is. I knew they held compassionate hearts for others who struggle, both because of their professions and the nature of their mission as a club of like-minded individuals. I’m not sure how many had previously heard the veteran suicide rate in the United States, how between twenty and twenty-two lives per day end because hope became far too frail for them to believe in a miracle. I sensed some had heard that number before, though I sensed even greater the uncomfortableness when I started to share my perspective that collectively, as a society, we struggle to listen to someone’s story of pain, trauma, sorrow, and despair. And those who have a story struggle to share their voices.
All were gracious to listen to me share an excerpt of a story from Hope Has a Cold Nose. They sat reverently, motionless outwardly, listening to me share the power of reframing someone’s story in such a way that it provides the story-teller dignity, worth, and healing. They listened as I shared an excerpt from a medic’s story about death and dying.
I anticipate, in that last sentence something in you recoiled, even if ever so slightly. Maybe even subconsciously. Perhaps, like the audience I was speaking to, you felt uncomfortable and had instant visuals of what kind of story that must be, your perceptions in the driver’s seat of how you “heard” death and dying. Inwardly, the faces of the audience I spoke with communicated this is heavy, too heavy for the day before Christmas Eve! Yet, they graciously held respect for the words that included:
I was handed another hat in which to wear, burning like that fire I mentioned above – the fire of an individual heartbeat. Some heartbeats were so very faint, a voice no longer able to speak. Yet, I could listen closely to the whisper of their soul communicating “help me have peace and dignity”. I still hold tightly to this hat I wore then, clenching it so tightly I’m convinced life will not come back into my white knuckles frozen in place. I am certain each and every one of their faces will be with me the rest of my days.
I anticipate if I asked you about a time you stood at a crossroads to decide left or right, you would be able to share with me a time you were wrestling with what to decide. Have you ever had a time where you felt yourself squeezed between opposition like wrong or right? For me, what I think about each day is being sandwiched between death and life.
I reflect on what I spoke to this audience that day. I asked myself if perhaps I should speak to audiences who are already familiar with the power of holistic healing with the aid of service dogs? What I share may not be as overwhelming to those who are already focused on supporting veterans and active duty personnel. And then I thought about how people start to heal the moment they feel heard and that isn’t something to save until after Christmas or for a “better” time. It’s for right now, for when someone crosses our path who is struggling to believe there is hope.
Hope is frail, and cannot be killed, if we choose to pause, listen, and simply say thank you for sharing your story with me. I can’t begin to know what it is to walk in your shoes, yet I am listening. I do not judge your story. Your story is extraordinary. May you believe hope is yours for the taking. May miracles flow to you unending.
As we prepare to step into a new year, and a new decade, may we carry the following words forward into action: Compassion binds us to one another – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future. – Nelson Mandela May we as humans offer hope to those in need of believing as well as those do who have a cold nose.
Blessings to you and yours in the year ahead,
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