By Wendy Renneke
For three years, I’ve written a simple sentiment for the year ahead on a Post-it and kept the notes visibly in my office. The notes were not an effort to create new year resolutions but to inspire my intentional positivity and forward momentum as we moved through the unprecedented challenges we faced in the last several years.
Today, each 3″x3″ yellow note sits above my desk, adhered to a nondescript, gray metal shelf, where my eyes often drift to when thinking. In black, felt-tip ink, 2019 states “Intentional gratitude”, 2020 “Resilience” and 2021 “Chose Hope”. While each sentiment appears simple, none have been easy, nor an intuitive effort that always came naturally. Often, I had to remind myself that Gratitude is a choice, even when circumstances could allow me to choose otherwise. Resilience doesn’t come without several bruises along the way, and Hope is a thing with wings that whispers to you your strength when you could easily believe you have little left.
As an AHRA Annual Design Team member, I am happy to share that I experienced the good fortune of seeing all three years’ sentiments come alive as I attended the AHRA Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, August 1-4, 2021!
It is impossible to recount the expressions of Gratitude I experienced from our AHRA family throughout our reunion in Nashville! From our beloved members to our invaluable vendor partners, I gave and received a multitude of thanks over the course of the week. To witness people choosing intentional Gratitude amidst challenges was indeed an inspiration! In addition, hearing expressions of thanks for the ability to meet in person, even though masked and without the typical handshakes, hugs, and visible smiles, was fuel for my soul! …And, by the way- I saw the smiles in your eyes and felt genuine Gratitude in your words, even through our masks!
Time and again, through the impactful content of our speakers’ presentations, I heard inspirational accounts of Resilience. Whether through examples of capital planning during unprecedented budget challenges, reinvention of career goals due to job loss, pivoting and realignment amidst a pandemic, or shared experiences of servant leadership and supporting team members’ mental/emotional wellbeing as they experienced loss and career challenges themselves. In Nashville, we reunited, grew together, were encouraged, and most importantly, we were reminded we had not experienced these challenges alone.
And finally, I experienced endless amounts of Hope.
Our AHRA family has a collective sense of where we have been, of our similar but different experiences throughout the last two years. Yet, through everything, there is an overwhelming sense of Hope for our futures, individually as well as an organization. Thank you, to each one of our members, for speaking your sense of Hope to large and small audiences. You are keeping Hope’s flame alive and passing its spark along with each encouraging word you speak.
After returning home to the beautiful Pacific NorthWest, I realized that Gratitude, Resilience, and Hope are all action words if only you choose them to be. The three can sit quietly, gathering dust, perpetually waiting for something. Or, you can choose to speak them into life, take them with you, infuse these three words into your daily routine, from the mundane to the extraordinary – choose to use Gratitude, Resilience, and Hope like tools to leave marks of positive influence on the world around you.
Now, to you, my amazing AHRA family, I wish for you a year ahead filled with growth, knowing there is empowerment in Gratitude, the bruises you experience while testing the boundaries of your Resilience will heal, and that in practicing Hope, you will find the strength you hadn’t realized you were capable of.
And one year from now, I will see you in Phoenix as we learn, celebrate your accomplishments, and welcome the 50th year of the AHRA together! Until then, I challenge you to find where these three words fit into your every day- Gratitude, Resilience, and Hope. I can’t wait to hear your stories in 2022.