Bringing closure to a learning experience is often a matter of exploring how the lessons can be applied to the lives of participants outside of the initial learning environment. This resource is designed to help people reflect on the discussions they have had about the various veterans’ stories and to apply them to their own experience on the paths that lie ahead. Each person will share a visual depiction of that journey, and have the chance to offer feedback and encouragement to fellow participants.

  1. Participants will apply concepts they have learned from the Veterans of Hope lessons to their own life stories.
  2. Participants will identify connections to larger collective histories that precede and flow from their own individual experiences.
  1. Anne Braden, “The Other America”.
  2. Julia Esquivel, “Everything Exists in God”.
  3. Posterboard or chart paper (at least 1 sheet per person)
  4. Markers
  5. Post-it notes
  6. Optional: Magazines, crepe paper, yarn, fabric, scissors, glue, pictures from home
  1. Begin the lesson by suggesting that each life can be looked at as a particular kind of journey, with a unique story to it, and that our individual stories take place in the context of much larger histories that precede our arrival on the stage – and continue once we’re gone. Ask the participants to think back to the introductory exercise when they told stories about their grandmothers. Have them think about the ways ancestors influence our lives. Ask them also to think about the clips they have seen from the Veterans. How would they describe the kind of journeys that the Veterans’ lives exemplify? What kind of experiences and people shaped them? What kind of purposes have they set for themselves, and have others played a role in setting for them?
  2. Explain that the activity today will allow each participant to reflect on the journeys in their own lives, and the broader familial, cultural and historical landscape within which these journeys take place. They will look back on the points in their own lives that have been pivotal as well as the how the histories that precede them have helped shape who they are. They will also consider how their sense of spirituality may be related to their larger life’s journey. And they will imagine how they can incorporate the ideas they have explored in these discussions into their present lives and work.
  3. Ask each participant to spend a few minutes in silence looking back on their own lives, in much the same way that the Veterans did in the video clips, at key moments that have lead up to this point in time. What has happened that has helped you become the person you are with the concerns and commitments that you have? These episodes can be positive or negative—times when you “found the better way,” or times when you fell short and learned an important lesson.
  4. Have each person list these key moments on a sheet of paper. When finished, each participant should select 2-3 that stand out as most significant and that they would be willing to share with the group. (Tell them that they will have an opportunity to share these episodes after watching two video clips.)
  5. Then re-introduce the group to Anne Braden. Explain that in the clip they are about to see, Anne offers a way of thinking about our lives as being a part of a “chain of struggle” against injustice, and that there is great hope in that vision. Play “The Other America” clip from Braden’s interview. After viewing the clip, ask participants to think about the “chain” in terms of ancestors — it is important here to help participants remember that their ancestry is not limited to their direct families, but as Braden points out, includes all others to whom they feel connected by belief, practice and commitment to making a more just and humane world.
  6. Introduce Julia Esquivel. Explain that in the clip they will watch from her interview, she reflects about the capacity to “conquer with love” and to use suffering as a way to understand our connections to each other. After viewing the clip, “Everything Exists in God”, ask participants to think about Julia’s comments arising from the context of violence and war in Guatemala (often supported by the US government). Ask participants to think about how their understanding of God (or the Universe, or Love) influences their sense of who they are and how they are connected to others. Encourage them to try to visually incorporate this understanding or perspective in their drawing.
  7. Next, ask participants to reflect on some future episodes they imagine they might face, in the near or distant future, and how they hope to respond in those situations based on what they have learned from the veterans. Examples might include responding to adversaries, addressing issues of violence or injustice in their schools or communities, advocating for local and state budgets to reflect greater social justice priorities, or organizing for more just policies at the national and international level. When finished, ask them to select two or three to focus on.
  8. Provide each participant with a posterboard or chart paper and art supplies. Instruct them that they will have the opportunity to display these ideas and events on the posterboard as part of journey—however they choose to depict it. It might be a linear journey, along a road, that moves from past to future. It might be a more symbolic journey, with elements from their lists arranged thematically. It might pick up on the theme of a “chain of struggle.” In any event, the idea is to display visually their own journey toward becoming a Veteran of Hope—someone dedicated to transforming themselves and the world around them. Remind them that their own personal journeys take place within the broader cultural and historical context of which they are a part. They can depict people or events that helped direct them along their path. They can also represent the influence of Spirit as a force in their lives, if they so choose. Assure them that steps can be small, and there is no need to be intimidated by the bold lives of the Veterans. The point is that each of us has a part to play, and that we can make choices to respond in new ways to the events we face.
  9. Once people have completed their posters, have them share them in groups of 3-4. Once each small group is finished, hang all the posters up and give each person a small stack of Post-It notes. They will do a “gallery walk” and visit all the posters. As they look at each one, they can use the Post Its to leave notes of encouragement or feedback, and pose questions for the person to consider.
  10. When everyone is finished, gather the group in a closing circle and have them reflect on what they have seen and heard in each other’s journeys, and what they have learned from the workshop sessions in general. End with a “whip around” where each person gets to share one final word that summarizes what they are taking away from the experience and hope to remember in the future.