Be a hope giver
In Burleson, as in every community, we have children exposed to violence and trauma every day. Applying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics regarding children exposed to violence to Burleson’s population numbers, we can estimate there are more than 1,000 children who witness serious violence each year.
This is critically important because we now know that childhood exposure to violence and trauma can have life-altering consequences. According to a ground-breaking study by Kaiser Permanente, exposure to adverse childhood experiences is predictive of social, emotional and cognitive impairment, the adoption of health-risk behaviors, disease, disability and social problems and even early death. Specifically, the study found that a person with an ACE score of six or more (in other words someone who experienced at least six of the ten types of adverse childhood experiences during their childhood) would have a life expectancy 20 years lower than an individual with a lower ACE score.
While the results of the ACE study are sobering, there is good news, too. A high ACE score is predictive, but certainly not determinative. There are many people who have adverse childhood experiences who are resilient and their lives turn out just fine. Even better, we now know what makes some people more resilient, and that is hope.
In this context don’t think of hope as an abstract feeling, or being based on a crazy dream. Instead, the kind of hope that gives vulnerable children a chance is much simpler - it is the hope that things are going to get better, that life is going to be okay. This kind of hope has two components. The first, is “agency”--a person must have the mental energy or willpower capacity to develop a sense of hopefulness. Second, there must be a “pathway” or a roadmap towards goal attainment.
I share this with you because we all know a child who is struggling and vulnerable. And we all have the ability to do something about it. Turns out, a caring adult invested in the long-term success of a child is the most effective way to develop hopefulness in that child. As Mother Teresa said, “We must give hope, always hope.”