I’m sure you are familiar with the movie The Wizard of Oz, based on L. Frank Baum’s book of the same name. Even though the film was released way back in 1939, it is still a favorite. The story of how Dorothy and her little dog Toto are transported to the land of Oz and then struggle diligently to find their way home is a timeless classic.
Three individuals join Dorothy on her journey down the yellow brick road to the Emerald City to meet the wizard who can transport her home. First she meets a Scarecrow whose head is filled with straw and who is in great need of a brain. Then she meets a Tin Man who tends to rust into immobility but who longs to have a heart. And finally she meets a Cowardly Lion who lacks and desperately wants courage.
In spite of misadventures, they finally find their way to the Emerald City, and in the process of helping Dorothy reach her goal of going home, her new friends discover that the things they most desire they actually possess. Even Dorothy learns that she doesn’t need external help to get home; she has always possessed the capacity to reach her ultimate goal. She is finally transported back to the Kansas farm where her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry live when she realizes that there is no place like home. (If none of this sounds familiar, go watch the movie or read the book.)
Children enjoy the exciting adventures that Dorothy has with the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion. Adults often find deeper meaning in the story and recognize the need we each have for intelligence, emotional responsiveness, and personal courage in order to achieve life goals. But it is Dorothy who we most admire, because she is so persistent and clear in pursuing her goal. Throughout the story she confronts situations where she must be brave, just, loving, truthful, and—always—hopeful. She is even hopeful when the Wizard sends her off on a seemingly hopeless (and ultimately meaningless) task. Dorothy exemplifies hope.
Hope is not an easy quality to define. I am not a psychologist or a social scientist, so I’m sure any definition I put forward will be limited and incomplete. But it seems to me that, at the core, hope is the human capacity to focus on a specific goal, take stock of the situation and your ability to respond to it, and then use that understanding to stay focused (like Dorothy) on the ways to pursue that goal. Hope is believing that the yellow brick road leads you to where you want to go—and doing everything you can to follow it.
I believe hope is absolutely imperative in healthcare. Our patients need hope to understand their own worth and capabilities, even in the midst of illness or deficits. They need the capacity to set goals for their own journeys, and they need the ability to follow the course that will take them where they most want to go. Hope is at the heart of healing.
As care providers, we need hope. We need to be able to be honest and truthful about circumstances, deeply committed to excellence in the care that we provide, and willing to go step by step with our patients and their families through a healing process. Hope is at the heart of everything we do to minister to those who entrust us with their lives. Hope helps us fulfill our mission.
I don’t think that what we do at Adventist HealthCare can be reduced down to a story—even one as good as The Wizard of Oz. But I think we can help describe it through some fundamentally important qualities. One of those qualities is hope. I see hope every day throughout our organization. I know how it helps to focus and energize us. And I believe the power of hope is virtually unstoppable when it is combined with unreserved love.