Three years ago, retired school superintendent Gary Doi began an experiment in creating an online community.
The goal was to create a space where people could share stories and ideas about leadership, learning, challenge, and especially hope.
Doi closed A Hopeful Sign earlier this year, but the inspiration has continued on in the shape of a new book, Inspiring Hope, One Story at a Time.
“When I went to close down the site in June, I got this very positive backlash form contributors,” said Doi. “They said you can’t just let it die, let’s do something.”
Though he hadn’t planned it, Doi was soon on to his next project, publishing books.
“So many of them offered their help and their support, I said let’s do it,” said Doi. From the more than 500 stories that had been published on the site, he chose 75 of the best to create the book.
Doi calls them bite-size stories, representing 42 of the contributors to the site. The contributors come from all walks of life, Doi explained. People whose principal occupation is not necessarily being a writer.
“Teachers, parents, students, lawyers, journalists, coaches, there is quite a range,” he said. “But the focus is the same, they are writing about in most cases a personal or professional experience about hope. So if you want to be uplifted, this might be a book to look at and be able to say, “I feel good about what I have read.”
“A wonderful gift for the season,” is what artist Roy Henry Vickers has already called the book.
But there is more than just the stories in the book to make you feel good. Money raised form the sales of the book to support a school in Guatemala that is trying to build a library to serve both their students and the community.
Doi discovered the school through his daughter, who volunteers for Librarians without Borders.
“I thought that would be something that would appeal to the contributors. Given the levels of poverty that exist in that society, you can imagine what a few thousand dollars is going to do for a school library, ” said Doi. “Given the poverty levels and the low literacy levels, the fact that reading is not really part of the culture, with a very large population, the school itself is trying to rise up from that and trying to create that habit of reading. So I thought it was a good fit in terms of a charity.”
Hope has been a major theme of Doi’s career, from teaching through being an administrator.
“I’ve always felt that teaching for me was about trying to inspire hope. My work, whether it be with teachers or students was trying to build that kind of atmosphere,” said Doi, adding after retiring from the Okanagan Skaha School District, he looked for a way to continue fulfilling that desire.
“I thought about continuing to extend and spread that kind of message about hope well beyond these borders,” said Doi. “And because I have a background in technology, why not through an online community? That is where the inspiration came from. It’s really a bridge from my past into something that could be new for the future.”
It won’t come as a surprise, then, that Doi is already planning a second book in the Inspiring Hope series, this time with the subtitle One Image at a Time, focussing on the work of artists, professional photographers, and writers who create images with their words. In the Okanagan, Doi has gathered a couple of local contributors and will be holding a meet the authors event from 2 to 6 p.m. at Coles Books on Nov. 30, and again on Dec. 16 at Hooked on Books in downtown Penticton, again from 2 to 6 p.m. He will also be at the Penticton Library on Dec. 3 to do a reading, starting at 4:30 p.m. Inspiring Hope, One Story at a Time is available at both Hooked on Books and Coles in Penticton, as well as online at Amazon.com. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.