“Hope is a Worthy Walk “came to my mind when the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Orlando asked me what our annual fundraising and awareness walk means
to people living with a
mental illness, as I do.
I thought about it for a long time.
I found myself looking through a window into a back yard.
I saw what was left of winter.
There was a drab picket fence, sticks and dry branches, plants and fallen leaves that had been bitten by winter’s last frost.
I could almost hear twigs snapping under my feet as I walked through the yard searching for something brighter or some sign of new life.
As I walked, I sifted through the fallen leaves of the vision and I found the ashes of all the lost years of my life.
Having failed on over 30 medications, I lived with the hopelessness of 25 years of life lost to chronic, treatment resistant schizophrenia and depression.
I was hospitalized 16 times in the dungeons of the day.
I couldn’t see hope or a future because there was no light; only suffering so deep there were no frames for words.
The only answer offered to my family and I was Freudian finger pointing.
But hope was waiting for me like dawn waits for the rising sun.
In 1998, new medications came and dusted the demons of this illness from my eyes.
At age 43, I woke up to see the sun for the first time in my life.
When I turned around to the vision of the back yard, I brushed my fingertips through the dust of the dark years saw what they had become:
Beauty for ashes,
Light for darkness,
Hope for despair.
Out of this vision I saw the light of NAMI Walks.
It was the light of hope and it swept over this back yard and its broken branches.
I saw flowers of every color, shade and hue, even subtle shades of the same color.
Every flower was different; their beauty was stretched out as far as I could see.
All of them were turned toward the Son; they were moving in the wind.
I heard the words of hope in the
wind and I knew there was power in the shadow of its wings; and so the vision
grew and I saw the flowers are you.
The precious gifts and talents you are bringing to NAMI’s walk are being gathered from the garden of hope.
I saw them arranged into bouquets; each one was different.
Those of us living with mental illnesses were the ribbons running through the bouquets.
Not only are the days brighter with brilliant blooms of hope but all of tomorrow is blessed by your light.
Thank you for the fragrance of your gifts.
They are a splash of hope and beauty; they are lighting the way of the walk.
The flowers and what they mean to me is as real as the withered back yard and its fallen leaves.
It is important that none of us underestimate the worth and value of our gifts and talents.
Each one is different; unique in purpose and design; whether it is a smile to encourage the walkers, the gift of time or the funds and resources we need to keep
walking in the light of the
Every gift is a seed of hope.
Out of this vision NAMI is walking and I know where we were going.
From the 1980”s I watched the National Alliance on Mental Illness rise out of the darkness of lost hope to seize the shadows of stigma and stereotypes,
bring us into the legitimacy of the light and pursue the cause of equal rights.
NAMI is walking in the right direction, every step we take runs countercurrent to the misunderstanding that is so much a part of living with the disorders of the
brain that cause serious
There are many walkers in our midst; they are dragging each step out of a weary well and they don’t know what to do.
They have no hope; vision has failed in the difficulty of their walk.
Without us they are struggling alone.
We are bearing their banner and
walking the walk for thousands who are silent; people who have been left behind
with no hope of accessing services or support.
Like the beauty of the bouquets, hope is tangible; its real and it is a living thing.
NAMI has given this to me and I’m giving it back knowing that hope is a gift of many colors and
There is beauty in it and power in its steps.
NAMI is walking in the light of this vision and we are walking with it.
If we seek this gift, we will find it.
If we plant it, people will come.
Time is turning in our hands;
those who have no hope are calling out for our gifts.
The services of the National Alliance on Mental Illness are free.
They are a lifeline; a bridge between despair and its struggle to endure and the healing that comes with access to care.
The gifts we gather as NAMI WALKS will kick off another year of services for those who need our help.
Hope is a worthy walk.
Peggy J. Symons
National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Orlando
“Hope is a Worthy Walk” is written in special appreciation for my brother, Michael Symons, and the corporate sponsorship of Sycomp, a Technology Company.