“I get it!”

This is what Juvenile Court Judge Wendell Askenette said to a crowd of Menominee Indian community leaders in reference to the Collaboration for Kids initiative being undertaken in the Menominee Indian School District. I was glad to hear him say, “I get it!” because I was about to present a training to these leaders on Collaboration for Kids.

The larger “I get it” message came to me as I recalled a poem that has been in the back of my mind since my college days. The first stanza of the poem, which is by Emily Dickinson, goes like this:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the songs without the words,
And never stops at all,

No matter where I travel to do a Collaboration for Kids training or presentation, I see the need for hope. Families and children are searching for hope, but hope is also being sought by teachers, human service professionals, and community leaders everywhere. When I speak, the message I often read in faces—and sometimes hear in words—is, “Go away unless you bring with you real hope!”

I get it!

The privilege of speaking to those who seek hope places an awesome responsibility on one’s shoulders. Hope truly is a “thing with feathers that perches in the soul,” and I feel a strong responsibility as an author and speaker to provide people with hope. In order to do that, I must somehow reach their souls and show them that what they want is possible.

Thankfully, I’ve learned that practicing the art of collaboration does create hope, that joining in relationships that shift one’s thinking creates hope, and participating in real long-term change for children and families creates hope and helps them meet goals. I have been there! I see it daily through Collaboration for Kids.

I get it!

Please, read the poem again. Hope never, never needs to “stop at all.”

Heatherly Conway, Ed.D., author, speaker, educator, social worker, and award-winning consultant for her work on Collaboration for Kids. For more than 30 years she has passionately promoted the rights of children to be safe, nurtured, loved, and educated. Her mission is to bring community professionals together in healthy, collaborative efforts to address the very real issues of children and their families.