Vision Quest

The Mental Health Association in Greensboro offers community education on recovery. One recent outreach project was a two-part workshop, “The Power of Hope,” at the Servant Center in Greensboro. This post describes the second workshop, in which participants made vision boards reflecting their hopes and goals.

A pile of magazines. Poster board. Glue. Scissors. With these simple materials, nine men at the Servant Center gave voice to their dreams.

They sat at two broad tables drawn together in the center’s library. They began by leafing through magazines, cutting out words and images that appealed to them. Their instructions were to be instinctive, to let their unconscious come out to play.

Rupert, Ed, and Danny tackle the magazine pile

Rupert, Ed, and Danny tackle the magazine pile

“Here’s a great Langston Hughes quote,” one said. He read the first words out loud: What happens to a dream deferred?

“Hey, you’re copying me!” Danny teased Rupert. Both had snipped the word “Vision” out of National Geographic.

Little personal piles of paper accumulated around the table. The men sifted through their piles and began to arrange phrases and pictures on poster board.

Vision board in progress

Vision board in progress

The room was quiet, the kind of quiet that comes with concentrated effort. Scissor blades scraped against paper, and the aroma of Elmer’s glue wafted through the room. You could almost imagine these men as children, bent over their school desks, before they served in the military, before prison or addiction or homelessness got in the way of their dreams.

“We need more time. An hour isn’t enough.”

But an hour was all they had, so they conjured their dreams as quickly as possible, then talked about their creations.

“I put ‘Back to School’ on mine because I’m starting college this fall, I’ll be studying substance abuse treatment at GTCC,” Everett explained. “I was dreading doing this activity beforehand. I thought, ‘What’s the point?’ But I really enjoyed it. I’m going to hang my board on the wall.”

Everett works on his creation

Everett works on his creation

Rupert said putting together his vision board inspired him. “I just found out I’ve lost fifty percent of my hearing, but this board makes me feel good.” For him, the creative process was surprisingly fluid: “It just happened. I didn’t even have to think about it.”

Jerome folded his poster board into an oversized book. The first side showed a pendant with a lock. “That represents the years I spent shut up in prison,” Jerome explained. “The upside-down eye stands for insight.” He smiled when he got to the final page of his book, festooned with white-petal flowers and the words “A Different Kind of Perfect.”

Jerome and his vision book

Jerome and his vision book

Danny’s board had a large, shadowy mountain on it. “That’s the mountain I’ve been climbing all my life,” he said matter-of-factly. Smack dab in the center of the poster board was a straw hat, a jaunty blazer, and a pair of pointy lace-up shoes.

The unfinished man

The unfinished man

“Why are there clothes but no person?” someone asked.

“I’m working on becoming that person,” Danny answered.

Everyone helped clean up afterward, sweeping the floor, tossing paper scraps into the trash. Danny was the last to leave; he helped carry the heavy bags of magazines outside. “I’m going to keep working on my vision board,” he said. “There’s a lot more I want to do.”


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