When Andrews University Press invited Hazel Arthur to submit a story for publication in their College Faith series of personal testimonies, she knew exactly what she wanted to write about. Arthur, associate professor and chair of the Department of Social Work and Sociology at Lipscomb University, chose to use this opportunity to honor two women who passed along hope and encouragement to her as she dreamed of going to college and beginning a career in social work. Her story titled Postcards of Hope was chosen for inclusion in College Faith 3, a continuation of the popular College Faith series which highlights faith stories written by college and university presidents, administrators and professors. “It was so against the odds that I came to Lipscomb,” Arthur states. She chose to write about the people who made sure she was “not defined by the circumstances of her life.”
Arthur grew up primarily in an East Nashville housing project. She first discovered Lipscomb when she was 10 or 11 years old and came to campus with a church group. After that experience, she sat and talked with Miss Polly Sheldon from her church. Miss Polly made time to listen and encourage. She allowed Arthur to voice her dreams about becoming a social worker. Arthur dared to dream that one day she might be able to attend Lipscomb herself. Arthur remembers asking Miss Polly if her hopes were worth hanging on to. “I remember she told me that of course I could go to Lipscomb,” Arthur states. “That was so significant for her to say because I was often reminded by others that people who live in the housing project don’t go there.” Miss Polly saw beyond Arthur’s physical circumstances in life and sent a “postcard of hope” to a young girl in need.
Arthur held on to that dream and found a way to make it come true. She applied for federal grants and found a place for herself at Lipscomb. Once there, Arthur met Jeanne Bowman, the school’s first social work program director. Bowman knew Arthur’s background, but never judged her by her circumstances or her past. She helped Arthur look forward to a bright future. “In her eyes, I saw unquestionable love, unwavering belief, and unmatched passion for me, for my family, and for all whose lives I would touch in the future. Another postcard,” Arthur writes. “Her faith and her belief in me drove me. I have a legacy to look to. I have a contribution to make because someone else made a contribution for me.”
Arthur knows the value of being given “postcards of hope.” She realizes the power of encouragement and in words and events that may seem insignificant to some, but can change the lives of others. “As Christians and as social workers,” Arthur claims, “we touch lives in a way that changes them for the better. God allows us to make a difference. We don’t just change one life. We have the potential to truly help shape lives for generations to come.”
Bowman had the privilege of seeing some of the fruits of her labor. Before she died, she saw Arthur return to Lipscomb as a teacher and eventually follow in her footsteps to become chair of the department. Through her career in social work and through her teaching and guidance at Lipscomb, Arthur has now been able to be the one to send “postcards of hope” to others in need. Arthur comments, “Neither Miss Polly or Jeanne Bowman knew they would put me in a position to impact the lives of others. It’s an honor to carry their legacy.”
Arthur tries to pass on these hopes of touching the lives of others to her students. She knows that it is both a privilege and a responsibility to be a social worker. Through Postcards of Hope, Arthur both honors those who believed in her and encourages others to be a person who holds out hope to those in need. One woman encouraged. One woman believed. One woman passes along the hope.