Every clown needs a circus; or my eternal gratitude to the people who keep HOPE afloat

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Tiny White Box newToday is the day. The Hope Recovery Festival begins at 11 today and runs until 2. I look forward to seeing each of you. I am huggable, if not particularly lovable. 

September is Recovery Month, and I’ve been writing these daily things now for 30 days (except for September 8, when you were treated to Bret’s Mission). You may well have grown tired of reading my let’s-see-where-this-rabbit-hole-goes style of writing, and I don’t blame you. Today’s final installment is going to be straightforward-ish and linear-ish. Probably.

A while ago, when I was still living in the Great North Woods in the Tiny White Box, I wrote about leadership, describing myself as a mystical clown. Every clown needs a circus, and every circus needs a bunch of gifted and dedicated people to keep the whole thing from crashing down.  These are those people, the ones who make Hope Recovery work, saving lives and strengthening recovery:

Missy Kimball
Missy Kimball

Hope has a great leadership team. Missy Kimball handles our finances, operations stuff and providing a sensible counterbalance to my nonsense, while Dave Cote does all the other real work—data, social media, etc. They are both WAAAAYYYY more talented than I when it comes to getting things done. (On the other hand, I’m better at generating often unrealistic and potentially dangerous ideas.) Dave and Missy deserve all the credit for bills being paid on time, the state being happy with us and sorting my nonsense into workable plans. Please, today, look them up at the festival and thank them. They are the backbone of Hope.

Dave Cote e1696030975942
Dave Cote

Now, though, I want to call out the hands, the arms, the heart and the soul of Hope—the front-end staff. Rob, Melissa, Bret, Julia and Sharna make people’s lives better every single day. They are the ones who welcome you, listen to you, talk and cry with you. They transmit recovery, support and hope all the time. Please find them today and give them hugs.

Without wanting this to sound like a high school yearbook, here are brief glimpses of each staff person:

Rob Dalrymple
Rob Dalrymple

Rob Dalrymple—Rob’s been an important part of the Hope community for the last three or four years. One of the deepest thinkers I know, Rob examines thoughts from as many angles as possible before drawing a conclusion. Rob runs a SMART Recovery meeting at Hope and has found a lot of inspiration in the Three Principles. He is a wise man and snappy dresser. Unfortunately, a serious and solemn family engagement will keep Rob from the festival. Please stop by next week at Hope to thank him.

Melissa Grieg
Melissa Grieg

Melissa Grieg—Melissa, at 24, is the youngest member of the Hope staff, but she is also one of the most mature—WAY more mature than I. She’s been an integral part of the Hope community for what seems like ever, but is actually a couple years. Melissa’s aturity is balanced by her ability to be as silly as a schoolgirl at times, and her way of melting in the presence of her husband, Josh. As a couple, they give me hope for the future of our species, which they’re ensuring by having a baby.

Bret Bicknell e1696031207318
Bret Bicknell

Bret Bicknell—Bret is a truly gifted writer with a sense of humor so dry it’s not always clear whether he’s joking or completely out of touch with reality. Although one of the newer staff members, Bret has quickly become a go-to guy for many members. Like me, Bret is a mediocre chess player who loves the game, making him a favorite of the serious players who smell fish whenever they see Bret or me.

Julia Lopez and Max e1696031263619
Julia Lopez (and Max)

Julia Lopez—Julia is amazing, able to transform herself from a silly social-media creator to an intuitive influencer of recovery. Although she is only with us a couple days a week, Julia’s presence is a highlight for many members.  Bilingual in Spanish and English, Julia almost always has a smile, along with an ability to make people feel not just listened to but heard.

Sharna Steinhart
Sharna Steinhart

Sharna Steinhard—Imperturbable is a word that springs to mind when I think of Sharna. Other words would be insightful, funny, sensitive, kind . . . but let’s not turn this into a thesaurus. Sharna uses a lot of mystical practice in her life, not to be a clown, but to help Hope members get centered and stop running around inside their heads.

These folks, the leadership team and the front-end staff, are the real Hope, and they make my role as mystical clown the easiest and best job in the world.  

They matter.


You matter. I matter. We matter.


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About this Author

Keith Howard

Keith Howard is former Executive Director of Hope for NH Recovery and author of Tiny White Box