The Power of Four Letter Words

By: Glenda Lofton, Ph.D.

Nov 12, 2019

I don’t see as many movies as I once did, and the names of the nominees are not always familiar.  And even though Bob Hope is no longer the emcee, I still enjoy watching the Academy Awards.  I loved when David Seidler, 73, whose dad, he said, called him a “late bloomer” received his first Academy Award for the best original screen play, The King’s Speech.  The director, Tom Hooper, then gave his mother credit for encouraging him to make the movie. But for me, the highlight was the 64 member Fifth Grade Choir from Public School 22 in Staten Island, NY, who closed out the Awards singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” under the direction of their teacher, Greg Breinberg. The school is located in a racially mixed blue collar neighborhood where families are having a tough time economically, but the students’ stirring performance confirms Greg Breinberg’s fundamental teaching point that with hard work anything is possible.  As the song elaborated, “the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.” The halls of the school, it is said, are covered with artwork that reinforce these beliefs.  

As I listened, my mind flashed back to another school that I worked with in the ‘80’s as part of a statewide school improvement effort—a school in one of the most notorious and dangerous housing projects in Orleans Parish. Even delivery men refused to go there, and I was warned to park near the school and to always carry something that would indicate I worked there. The school, I was told, was valued by the community and considered "off limits" for the acts of lawlessness and vandalism that prevailed there.  

On one of my first visits to the school, one of the parent volunteers, recruited as part of the improvement effort, greeted me warmly and proudly offered to show me their Hall of Four Letter Words. I must admit that with my knowledge of the housing project and the graffiti there, I was not prepared for what I saw—a beautiful, inspiring and colorful collage painted by the students, including four letter words such as hope, love, home, kind, good, safe, help, work, play, life, and free. The hall, and the school itself, had become a symbol of hope for the families represented there. Later a parent would say to me, “You’re not just changing a school.  You’re changing a whole community.”  

Hope is a powerful four letter word not only in the lives of children and adults in poverty, but for all of us.  In her book, Poverty: A Framework for Understanding and Working with Students and Adults from Poverty (1995), Ruby Payne notes that poverty is an absence of resources that go beyond the financial. While financial resources are important, the ability to leave poverty and to be successful in life are more dependent upon other resources.  Resources include the following:  

  • Financial—having the money to purchase goods and services.
  • Emotional —having the stamina and perseverance to deal with uncomfortable situations and feelings.
  • Mental —having the ability and skills such as reading, writing, and computing to deal with daily life.
  • Spiritual –believing in divine purpose and guidance and that individual worth and love are given from God.
  • Physical—having physical health and mobility.
  • Support Systems—having friends, family, backup resources in times of need.
  • Role Models—having frequent access to appropriate and nurturing adults who model how to live.
  • Knowledge of the Hidden Rules—knowing the unspoken cues and habits of a group that help you to “fit” in that group.  

In the workplace, in our schools, and in our families, we have opportunities to provide many of these resources that provide hope and contribute to the success and inner peace of others as well as ourselves. As we deal with the ordinary pressures of work and daily living and the additional stress of a depressed economy and unrest around the world, let us remember the power in the four-letter word, hope. In the eighth grade I won a poetry contest with a poem by that title. Although many poems were longer and more eloquent, the judges chose mine, they said, because it carried so much meaning in just a few words:  


Hope is something that lives within

The hearts and souls of many men.

A hope that lives and does not die-

A hope inspired by one on high.  

Lofton Staffing was founded on the belief that problems are possibilities to build relationships and trust, and when we help others, we help ourselves. As the teacher demonstrated to his fifth graders and to all of us, with hard work (also a four letter word) anything is possible.   

About Lofton: Founded in 1979, Lofton Services offers clients the best of all worlds. We provide the responsive, personal service and flexibility of a small local firm while having the technology, resources, and infrastructure to deliver the benefits of the biggest players in our industry. Lofton Staffing can deliver the right people, with the right skills, right when you need them. Celebrating 40 years in staffing excellence! Contact us today

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