Hope for a better tomorrow

Most of us think hope is like wishing on a star. It feels nice but also distant, alive only in some fairy tale future with little practical use in the present world of hard facts. After the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, I learned there is a deeper and more powerful reality in hope that goes beyond a mere wish. As it turns out, true hope is scientifically proven to help heal both individuals and organizations after prolonged trauma and loss.

Our credit union experienced extreme trauma and loss in the aftermath of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Our only office was destroyed. Most of our managers and over half of our staff were killed. I was one of the few lucky survivors, buried alive for over six hours. Beyond the grief and funerals, replaced computers and new office space, we still had hope.

I never had the words to describe this until a year before the pandemic. I ran across the book Hope Rising, coauthored by Dr. Chan Hellman, PhD, the Director of the University of Oklahoma’s Hope Research Center. His framework and pathways among trauma, loss, and hope perfectly described what I experienced after the bombing. According to Dr. Hellman, hope’s true definition is the belief that the future will be better, and you have a role in making that happen.

We often forget that second, critical part of hope’s definition. We say things like “I hope you have a great trip,” but we really have no control over that trip. We may hope to win the lottery, but again, we have no role in making that happen. True hope is a belief that you will help create a better tomorrow. That powerful belief will motivate you to take confident, decisive action today. In other words, hope isn’t the distant star, it’s the rocket fuel that you possess, today, to launch into space. Individuals and organizations with high hope have dynamic power to adapt to changing markets and conquer the largest obstacles.

The problem, as Dr. Hellman scientifically proves with decades of research, is individuals and organizations lose hope after prolonged trauma and loss. After the confusion and disorientation of lockdowns, canceled family holidays, and political disruption, many of our employees have certainly lost hope. We all struggle at times to believe we have control over a better tomorrow.

The good news is you can restore hope with intentional action. Against all odds, our credit union survived and even thrived in the aftermath. We found success because leaders within the credit union industry took time to intentionally reignite our hope. They found ways to remind us that we did, in fact, have a role in making our future better. We dusted off the gray soot of victim mentality and moved swiftly toward new goals with confidence.

I am forever grateful my mentors taught us hope was a verb with its sleeves rolled up. Personally, those lessons in hope helped me go back to college, rise in management, and even complete an Ironman triathlon. I feel blessed for the opportunity to teach others about the power of hope. I encourage you to consider doing the same and let your power of hope blaze a brighter future.

Amy Downs is CEO of Allegiance Credit Union (formerly Federal Employees Credit Union), a survivor of the 1995 OKC Bombing, and author of the book, Hope is a Verb.

Amy Downs

Amy Downs

In addition to being the CEO of Allegiance Credit Union, Amy also speaks on the importance of resisting complacency.  Amy survived the 1995 OKC bombing and later transformed her life ... Details