Podcast

Episode 131 – Amy Wolff, Sharing Signs of Hope

This week we’re continuing our series, Going Against the Grain, with speaking coach, author, and founder of Don’t Give Up, Amy Wolff. Join Amy and Jessica as they reflect on the global movement that Amy sparked when she posted a simple yard sign bearing a message of love. This message, and so many more, are at the core of Amy’s new book Signs of Hope that collects stories of transformation and bravery.

TRANSCRIPT

Jessica: Hey, everyone! Welcome back to the Going Scared podcast. This is your host Jessica Honegger, founder of the social impact fashion brand Noonday Collection. Join me here every week for conversations on living lives of purpose by leaving comfort and going scared.

I am in love with this conversation. Please, out of everything in the series, I think this, well, and the first one about tech, is really – I want you to hear this conversation. Amy Wolff, she is so many things: TEDx speaker, coach, advocate of Rwandan reconciliation, mom, and honestly, just a very dear friend. You’ll hear more about our friendship on the podcast.

She is the founder of Don’t Give Up Signs in the Don’t Give Up Movement. It’s a nonprofit that started a little by accident but with a deep intention to make a difference, and it’s now a global movement spreading love through simple yard signs. I know – I was a skeptic myself, and you are not going to believe the stories that she shared today.

Her products have now shipped to all 50 states and in 26 countries in several languages. And like you’ll hear Amy say, she didn’t really have any sort of business starting a yard sign project. She is also the author of the newest “Signs of Hope” releasing in April. It’s a collection of stories about the power of hope and love, and guess what – I wrote the intro, and I’m super passionate about this book. So, I really want you to go head on over, put it in your Amazon cart. Here’s my conversation with Amy.

 

Amy Wolff: Sharing Signs of Hope

Jessica: So, this is so interesting. So, this is my friend, Amy Wolff, on the show today.

Amy: Hey.

Jessica: Thank you for coming on the show. So, here’s the deal. Amy has been my speaker coach for several years.

Amy: So fun.

Jessica: Yes. So, you have helped me not to talk with my hands as much. I have to say, I need a whole new speaker coach for how to speak on Zoom because I did my first group keynote the other day on Zoom and I was like ooh, my hands.

Amy: How did it go?

Jessica: My hands.

Amy: Yeah. We have been getting a lot of phone calls from clients going, “Wait, how do we do this in a screen?”

Jessica: Totally, totally. So anyway, Amy has helped me even know how to write my content for keynotes and how to have eye contact with the audience. But that’s not why she’s on the show today, although certainly, we can have you back on the show. We should do a whole skill set series, basic life skills, public speaking…

Amy: I love that.

Jessica: Okay, we’ll do that. We’ll do that. But today you’re a part of this series that’s all about going against the grain, and you just released a book called “Signs of Hope,” which I got to write the intro for.

Amy: How cool is that? Have you ever done that before?

Jessica: I have not written an intro. I haven’t written an intro. I’ve done a lot of endorsements, but not a full intro.

Amy: Oh, I’m so honored. So honored. And people, when they read it, they’ll learn about the night we met, the night at 9:00 pm in your office when you were jet-lagged. It’s so great.

Jessica: It is. When you were doing my first speaker coach meetup with me. And I have to say, as I was reading your book, I mean, because I know you as the speaker coach side of you. And I remember that night, you shared a little bit of your story and then you handed me a whole bunch of stickers and you were like, "I’m doing this, you know…" I don’t know what you called it at the time.

Amy: No, that’s fair because it was a grassroots movement. I didn’t know what it was.

Jessica: Right. And so, you handed me these stickers, “you’re enough.” And I mean, I remember I handed a stack of it to my daughter and she ended up putting them all over her bed at the time. And so that’s who I’ve known you as. We’ve had you come do keynotes at Shine to train our ambassadors on how to give speeches. And so, then I’m reading your book and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, like, this is crazy.”

Amy: It’s crazy.

Jessica: I didn’t know all of the actual impact. And in fact, I’ll be honest with you, because I am nothing if not honest, when you handed me that stack of stickers and told me about signs, I was like, “Really? Like, this makes an impact?”

Amy: Friend, me too.

Jessica: And then I’m reading your book and I’m like, “Oh wow.” So, first of all, why don’t you, for those of us that don’t know signs, tell us what this movement is. And then, of course, the story of how it all began and then we’ll get into the impact of it, which is totally astonishing.

Amy: Yeah, it is. And I appreciate your honesty because, me too friend, what is going on? It started in May 2017 and I was sitting with a group of friends. One was a teacher in the school district, and he told us about the suicide rates, and I was baffled. I remember the conversation kept going, but my heart was stuck. I couldn’t grapple with it. I couldn’t wrestle with it.

And you know me, those who know me well know I’m a doer. So, I’m thinking, “What can I do? What do I do with the concern? What do I do with the heartache?” And I have no business doing anything. I am not a mental health expert, I have never personally suffered with depression or anxiety, which I know many, many, many people do. So, I have no business doing anything, but I remember going home that night thinking, "I’m going to do something. I have to do something."

“I remember going home that night thinking, ‘I’m going to do something. I have to do something.’” Amy Wolff

Rewind a couple of years, I was rereading Bob Goff’s book “Love Does” and Brene Brown’s book “The Gifts of Imperfection.” And reading those, I had this really weird vision, like this really weird idea of putting three words on a big yard sign: Don’t Give Up. Super cliché, super stupid, never did it.

And then that night in May of 2017, I thought, “Well, shoot, I’m just going to print those signs.” We stuck them anonymously around our small town of Newburgh, Oregon, and within days, so much conversation online: “Where did these come from? I want them in my yard. Oh my gosh, I’m going through a divorce. It was really helpful. I just got a cancer diagnosis, these came at the right time, or I do suffer with self-harm ideation.” And I remember thinking, “Holy crap, yard signs? No way.” Kind of like what you felt, like really?

And that became the beginning of a global movement of spreading hope and love in tangible ways. Not just through yard signs anymore, but through wristbands and car decals and stickers and pencils and all sorts of goodies. We became a nonprofit organization, we all had day jobs, but there are three women that sit on the board and we sell all of our tokens at cost. We make no money. That is not the point. And so, we sell it all at cost online. And it’s just blown up. We’re in over 26 countries. It’s crazy.

 

Small Actions. Big Impact.

Jessica: And it’s signs and stickers that just have phrases like “Don’t Give Up.” What are the other key phrases that y’all print?

Amy: Oh, yeah. This a good challenge for me. Let’s see if I can remember. You matter. You are worthy of love. Your mistakes don’t define you. It’s not too late. One day at a time. We have some Spanish ones.

Jessica: Wow.

Amy: We have a few others. I’m missing a few, but you can hop online.

Jessica: You Are Enough. Isn’t that one of them? I feel like that’s what mine said.

Amy: Yes. Oh. And then when quarantine – when the pandemic, I should say, when COVID hit –  quarantine is not the enemy, COVID is. When COVID hit, we got bombarded with orders of people wanting to do good, but not knowing how. And so, they thought, “Well, I can stick yard signs for essential workers showing up and cheering them on.” And so, we got bombarded in about March, April of 2020, and that’s when we introduced a new sign, "We’re All in This Together." Which is so cliché and yet here we are receiving messages and emails.

Jessica: Yeah. You know, yeah. Sometimes the most cliché things are the most true. And by the way, these signs are black and white, not fancy. It’s not like your latest cool, you know, illustrator. It’s just super simple.

Amy: Jess, I know.

Jessica: And that is what is so powerful about your story, and it’s not even your primary gig still. I mean, you are a speaker coach and you just… it was like this itch. I’m sure there’s a more eloquent way to come up with it, but there was this itch that happened on your heart. There was an itch on your heart and you just started scratching it and now… now tell us some of the stories because that is where I was like, “Whoa, whoa.”

Amy: I know, I know. Which one? Let’s see. Okay. Immediately the first one that comes to mind, a young woman is driving through the country in the Midwest, in Midwest States. Her husband has just been told he’s going to be deployed. She’s been facing infertility for a long time, and the year before, she lost her brother to suicide and was the one to find him. She was struggling a lot for a lot of different reasons.

And as she was driving down this country road in this field of this farm, were big iron stakes in the ground, and zip-tied to these stakes were two signs: “Don’t Give Up” and “You are Worthy of Love.” She pulled over her car. What on earth? She took a picture. She Googled us because we don’t brand anything, which is a stupid business idea, but we’re not a business.

And she Googled us, and she found us, and she sent me a message. "You saved my life. I have leaned back into counseling, I have found a support community, but you need to know that these signs came at the right place, at the right time for me. And I just bought signs to spread the hope myself."

Jessica: Amazing.

Amy: Jess, it’s story after story. You know, I couldn’t explain it at first because as someone, myself, having gone through trauma and grief… When I was 14, my brother passed away in a drowning accident that I witnessed. And I remember, especially in my faith community, people were quick to give me platitudes. It’s God’s timing, God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle. And while there might be truth in them, it was really quite insensitive, in the middle of my grief and trauma, to hear those things.

And so, I know that sometimes plastering platitudes in kind words on gaping wounds is more hurtful and harmful. And that people who love me well in those days were the ones who just showed up, with not a lot of words, weren’t afraid of my pain, but just showed up for me and said, "I’m here. I’m not going anywhere" and that’s it. And they gave space to my pain. Knowing that, I was super confused about the power of these yard signs, like, am I just doing the same thing? Are we just plastering kind words on gaping wounds?

But this is really cool. A couple of months after the movement started where we realized, “Oh my gosh, this is a thing,” I ran into a woman in Portland who is a grief expert, which sounds like a great job but I heard her speak at a conference and afterwards I went up to her and I said, "I personally know the pain of people offering kind words on my wounds. And so, I agree with everything you taught today. However, I did this thing with yard signs and it seems to be helping people. How?"

And she gave me the most brilliant insight that has brought so much clarity to why it helps us. She said, “Oh no, you’re not trying to hurry people’s healing or solve their suffering. What you’re doing is creating moments of sovereignty.”

Oh, that sounds so good, but I don’t know what that means. And she said, “You are putting out messages where unsuspecting people headed to work, driving across town are minding their own business and their negative thought patterns, and there, on the side of the road, is a message of hope on a sign. And through whatever lens of suffering they’re experiencing that day, that month, they see the hope and they claim it for themselves. No one’s shoving it down their throat, no one’s making them feel bad for their pain. They take it, for them. That’s the power of what you’ve done.”

“There on the side of the road is a message of hope on a sign. And through whatever lens of suffering they’re experiencing that day, that month, they see the hope and they claim it for themselves.” Amy Wolff

Jessica: And it’s so true because, truly, it interrupts the confirmation bias. I think those of us that have… I mean, I think science says that our brain is naturally bent towards to take negative pathways, and then certainly trauma only creates makes the boroughs, those pathways even deeper.

And I mean, it takes a lot of work, even for me to, especially if I’m going through a trying time that is making my anxiety flare-up, I usually wake up when I’m going through those times really anxious and it takes work for me because it’s primal. It’s some stuff that happened when I was little that created a primal pathway for anxiety and uncertainty, like, “You’re not going to be okay.” And so, for me to go from “you’re not going to be okay” to, “God’s got this, you’ve got this,” it requires a lot of work. It requires a lot of work.

And so I’m thinking about how so many of us, you know, we get in our cars, whether it’s to go, you know, drop our kids off or, you know, go to work or go to the grocery store, whatever it is. And oftentimes, we are in that confirmation bias of, "I don’t have what it takes, I’m overwhelmed, I’m not enough, I’m not going to have enough to get through whatever I’m going through," and then this sign just interrupts that point of negativity. And that’s kind of what we need when we’re in that place and it’s so cool.

 

Just Show Up and Listen

Jessica: So that, first of all, is cool. I love that story about, you know, how platitudes… First of all, can we just say, I hear people in grief, I’ve interviewed a lot of people on the podcast who have gone through suffering and grief, and I shouldn’t be astonished at what people say but it’s astonishing.

Amy: Yeah. I remember there’s a moment in the book that I write about, in Rwanda, where about every year or so, unfortunately not recently, I lead a team to Rwanda to do a few different things, but most days we spent with groups of genocide survivors from the 1994 genocide.

And we go and travel around the country under the leadership of Ben Kayumba, a survivor himself, who I consider a dear brother to me now. I just talked to him this morning, actually. But I remember showing up to this group in a small village called Rugalika, and I’m sitting there hearing their stories of surviving through horrific trauma where I am so confused why they’re willing to tell strangers that just flew into their country about such deep, sacred wounds.

And I’ve asked Ben about that and he said, you know, "You don’t come as visitors, you come as my friends and so they trust you like they trust me." But there comes to this point every time we meet with a group, where Ben says, "Okay, it’s your time to share." And I think, “What? I have nothing. I have nothing to give that… I have nothing to say, right… I don’t want to say the wrong thing, certainly, but I have… Nothing I could share could bring any amount of hope or comfort.”

And he has taught me something really beautiful that I have taken with me and that is this: "Your ministry of presence is more powerful than your money that you can send or the words that you share. The fact that you came, the fact that you got on a plane, the fact that you showed up, the fact that you’re unafraid to sit here and listen, to weep with them, that shows your love and solidarity, and that is why I want you to keep bringing people back to visit."

That has freed me so much just from this pressure to say the right thing, do the right thing, with my friends who are suffering. My dear friend whose teenage son died in a terrible plane accident last summer. I have learned just to show up and sit. To be slow in my words, but so generous in my presence. And that is such a good life lesson for all of us. It’s uncomfortable, and I have to be willing to be uncomfortable in the grief with others, as they did for me.

“I have learned just to show up and sit. To be slow in my words, but so generous in my presence. And that is such a good life lesson for all of us.” Amy Wolff

Jessica: It reminds me Bryan Stevenson, who wrote the book “Just Mercy” and leads the organization Equal Justice Initiative, talks about proximating yourself, proximating yourself to the poor. And truly by starting this happenstance, you know, sign movement, you have proximated yourself to people that are suffering. And I know a lot of it is mental illness.

Now, you have been through suffering yourself. I mean, deep suffering that most people… I mean, to witness your brother dying. I mean, that is a suffering most people don’t know. And yet, you opened up… talking earlier you said, you know, it’s so interesting because I am now proximate to so many people struggling with mental health, but you yourself have not necessarily struggled with mental health. So, tell us a little bit about what your journey learning more about mental health has been like.

Amy: Yeah. I want to first say I feel nervous right now. I feel what a lot of people feel entering a difficult conversation is saying the wrong thing. So first, listeners, forgive me and be gracious with me if how I talk about it and how I attempt to lean into the conversation doesn’t feel right to you or rubs you in a painful way. I apologize, but here’s my best attempt. Please trust my heart.

When I started the sign movement, it was because of the suicides in our town. And I write a little bit about one in particular that really hurt, and a deep relationship that actually formed across the country with his parents of the boy who had died. One of the things that I felt really uncomfortable with was pulling my seat up to the table of the discussion of mental wellness, having really no frame of reference for it.

And in that sense, I felt like I was kind of swimming against the stream here where what felt like plopped into my lap was work that I was not familiar with. One of the steep learning curves was language. Instead of committed suicide, it is more honoring to say died by suicide. And understanding terms like self-harm ideation, that’s less triggering than other terms.

And so I, one, had to identify more honoring and appropriate language when I engage and that came by learning the hard way. I spoke at a local community event here and someone afterwards said, "I’d really appreciate it if you change a little bit of how you spoke about people who died by suicide." And I had to be humble and listen and say, “Okay, I can do that. I can change my wording.”

So, it’s been uncomfortable to pull up my chair to the table, but God knows I’m willing and I’m willing to be uncomfortable. It’s part of my Enneagram eight, I think is a little bit of this tolerance for tension. I think it helps me a little bit, affords me some of that passion to show up in spaces that are outside my comfort zone.

Jessica: I think one of the biggest learnings that I just want to point out and pause is how you open this conversation. And I just want listeners… I’m getting tearful and that’s because I’m in therapy right now, so everything is at the surface.

Amy: Is it near the surface?

Jessica: Yeah. Everything’s near the surface, but one of the things, and I did this with my daughter yesterday is, you know, I didn’t grow up in a home where we had difficult conversations, and my mom walked on eggshells, Enneagram nine. My dad was under just a tremendous amount of stress and was a little bit, I’ll say, passionate instead of volatile. But what I can say is that I don’t remember kind of my parents sitting me down and navigating like, hey, you might be picking up on anxiety in our home right now.

I remember even when my mom and I did have confrontation, like she would write me letters. We couldn’t even talk. It’d be like I come home and there’s a letter on my bed.

 

Facing Grief and Finding Peace

Jessica: So anyway, all that to say that what I’ve realized is that has caused me to kind feel a lot of anxiety with my children when I’m like, “Ooh, I think I need to maybe talk to them about this thing that I saw or found.” And so, my therapist has suggested like, just say that. Just say like, “Hey, I’m worried that I’m gonna say something wrong right now and I don’t want you to walk away feeling like you’re not enough. And I might make a mistake, but I also don’t want you to feel alone and I choose you and I know that we can have a million conversations after this because you’re my kid, this isn’t our only chance.”

And that is exactly what you did, just saying like, “I don’t know if we’re gonna get this right but I’m gonna learn.” And it really is that posture. And isn’t that what it means to really, truly make yourself proximate to suffering? It isn’t coming with the platitudes, coming with the solutions, coming with, you know, but it is… it’s being able to sit in our own discomfort, which, you know, for so many of us that is actually our work. Our work is to sit in that discomfort so that we can show up in a compassionate and loving way to those of us around us.

I am curious, as someone who has been through immense suffering, what do you think prevented you from going into more of a mental health crisis?

Amy: Yeah. Okay. So, my answer is be really religious for those of you who aren’t so buckle up for a moment. I was 14, Jeremy was 18. It was three weeks before I started high school that I witnessed him drown. And “I don’t know” is the answer, Jess. I think the only way that I can explain it is that I had a lot of peace that felt like a miracle.

“I think the only way that I can explain it is that I had a lot of peace that felt like a miracle.” Amy Wolff

I have faith in God, and I think at 14, I was faced with a question, a three-part question. One, okay, does God really exist in light of this? Two, does he exist, and he’s just mean? Or three, does God exist and he’s good, but I just can’t get it on this side of heaven? I just won’t have the answers to reconcile the bad I feel and experience with the good that God is.

And I can’t tell you why, because I was a typical 14-year-old, I had resolved and found this maturity spiritually to say, "I won’t get it, but I believe God is good. I’ve known too much. I’ve experienced too much." And I felt a lot of peace.

I have no fear of water. I have no survivor’s guilt, even though I didn’t do anything to try to save him despite being very close to him in proximity in the water. I don’t know why. I don’t know why I can talk about it and not crumble. I can only say I think I was divinely protected.

I hesitate to say that because it’s not everyone’s story where I’ve walked with people through them suffering and they don’t have that peace. And I wish I could be, “God, like, I don’t know why you gave it to me, give it to everyone.”

So, it’s hard for me sometimes to share that but that’s the honest unedited truth is I felt God’s protection over me. But I so understand that grief is a long-haul journey. In fact, probably the most struggling I did was in college years and years and years later, where I went, “Nope, God, that sucked. You sucked in that moment. You were a bad savior that day. You did not save him.” And I wrestled with that more in college, but those moments did come.

Jessica: Wow. Tell me about your parents.

Amy: Well, my mom’s a pastor and a chaplain at the hospital, or was, so she’s deeply tender, deeply wise has a large capacity for patience and compassion for other people’s grief and pain. My dad is more of an intellectual, we run our speaker coaching business together. He’s very methodical, very much more reserved. So, I say I’m a happy balance between the both of them. And you’ll learn more about them in the book and what I’ve learned from each of them about how to love well.

My dad being reserved, you know, the way he loves others is different than this outward expression that my mom gives so generously. And so, I write about how my dad when he hears… every summer, we embrace for more headlines of drownings at our local lakes and rivers. And those headlines, like all of us listening, there’s some headlines that just hit us different because of a personal experience.

And when those headlines come about drownings in our area, my dad waits a few months and he finds a way to reach out to the families. And he says, “Us too. I’m so sorry for your loss. And if you want to meet in the coming years, our family would love to sit with you and give you a gift.”

And what he does is he makes wooden boxes. We have a journal up at Jeremy’s gravesite where friends can write in it, write to Jeremy, write prayers, write letters to my parents to reconnect with them 20 plus years later. And so, my dad made a wooden box to protect our journal from the rain and the weather. And so, he makes boxes and he engraves the name of the son or daughter that was lost and he puts a blank journal inside and he gives them as gifts to these families, sometimes strangers, people we don’t know.

And so, although we are all wired differently in our personalities, I think how we can express love and stir hope in others is different. And I admire my dad so much in that he is willing to come out from the sacred hurting places to help other people in theirs.
“Although we are all wired differently in our personalities, I think how we can express love and stir hope in others is different.” Amy Wolff

Jessica: Wow.

Amy: Yeah. I have amazing parents. I think one of the best gifts they gave me, that I want to give to my kids, is I never had to hustle for my love or prove it to them and I knew that I could never lose it. My good grades wouldn’t earn it and my mistakes wouldn’t take it away, it was just always on the table. And I had consequences, but I was a rule follower. I was afraid of them in a healthy way, but that’s one thing that I am trying to impart to my kiddos is, you are loved and also go love well.

And that’s what really this book is about, how do we go love well, no matter who we are, no matter our wounds, no matter our current suffering. Even when we’re struggling, how can we see others? How can we link arms and do this together? Which is what Noonday is about in a totally different form. It’s the same mission, except yours is way more aesthetically beautiful than black and white wristbands and yard signs.

 

Being There, Now and Forever

Jessica: I love it.

Amy: It’s so true.
Jessica: I love it so much. I just want to camp out here just a little bit longer. Tell me, what did it feel like in your home that year after Jeremy passed? How did your parents show up for you in that place of discomfort while they themselves were in that place of suffering?

Amy: I think my answer would be different than my parents’. I think I had no concept of that at 14, but over the years, I’ve heard a little bit more from them about the place they were in and the decisions they had to make. For example, a couple of months after Jeremy passed, a bunch of friends – I had older friends, Jeremy’s age, who wanted to go to the beach for the day and I remember being excited and asking my parents… And although I sensed a small hesitation, they said, yeah, sure, go to the beach.

Well, years later I find out that was so hard for them. How do we give Amy freedom and a normal social life and not be terrified every day that she walks out the door, not knowing if we’ll see her again like they did with Jeremy? And so, they had choices to make of allowing me freedom while facing their own fears. And I think I respect so much the decisions they made that first year for me, on my behalf, that I was just totally unaware of.

I remember a lot of weeping, a lot of food in our cupboards and flowers in our kitchen. I remember good friends sitting in the corner in armchairs, just being with us in silence. I remember that a lot, the first couple of weeks. I remember probably more the letters and the texts one year later of "We remember" and then two years later, "We remember."

One of the things I write about in the book is there’s this chapter about, what is spreading love look like? Well, that sounds really lofty, but tangibly. And so, I share stories of people who’ve done things, big things, small things and in one of them, the most profound for me in those years was when people remembered August 9th. That was it.

It was people who put it in their calendar as a reminder and sent my family a text that said, “I remember. I remember Jeremy today.” A lot of people rally in the first couple of months where the flowers are endless and the cards are endless, but a year or two or 20 later, I can’t tell you how deeply loved and seen my family feels.

And so, I put my cousin’s sobriety celebration anniversary on my calendar and every year, "Hey, one more year, cousin. Love you, so proud of you." And when my step-grandpa died and passed away, I texted my grandma, “Hey, I remember him. I remember today.” And my friend from college who had to deliver her stillborn baby at eight months old, “Hey, we remember him today.” And so those are the dates that I put in my calendar and those are the ways that I try to make other people loved because that first year for us, and the second year, it was so impactful.

Jessica: Wow.

Amy: And it’s so simple. It’s putting a date on the calendar.

Jessica: So simple.

Amy: Right. Such an easy thing. I hope…

Jessica: Like the signs.

Amy: I know. It can be so simple. I think sometimes we make it so hard. The stupid byline of my book, I’m going to be honest, I hated the subtitle. It’s how… do you have the book? I don’t even have it in front of me.

Jessica: I know.

Amy: “How love can change your world,” I don’t know, something. And I was like, “This is the stupidest subtitle.” So, I was on a girl’s weekend that weekend looking at a bookstore, looking at all these subtitles and I thought, oh, they’re all cheesy. They’re all cliché. Okay, fine. Okay.

But the truth is that we can change our corners of the world and it isn’t hard. We just have to be willing to look up, to not be afraid of the pain, to be willing to stumble over the words, but to show up wholeheartedly. And there are such simple ways that we can do that for each other.

“The truth is that we can change our corners of the world and it isn’t hard. We just have to be willing to look up, to not be afraid of the pain, to be willing to stumble over the words, but to show up wholeheartedly.” Amy Wolff

I have so appreciated… For you… You have sent me text messages when I said, "I’m writing a book. I don’t know what I’m doing." And you’re like, "It’s okay, rally a troop. You’re good. You’re just fine." And those little things are so helpful, so encouraging and just… oh man, the community, the doing this together. That’s what we need.

Jessica: Yeah. I mean, even as you’ve been talking, I’ve thought about a couple of my friends who’ve lost parents in the last couple of years and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I need to go put that in my calendar.”

Amy: Yeah, yes, go do it. And all of us listening will face something in the next week or two where, maybe it is a celebration or maybe it is a lamenting, a collective lamenting with friends, put it in your calendar. I hope you remember this conversation.

 

Don’t Give Up

Jessica: Okay. Now I got to get to the Enneagram because you just…

Amy: Oh my gosh.

Jessica: You are such an Enneagram eight. The first time I met you, you said you’re a three. The next time we hung out, you said you’re a one. And this is the first time where I’m hearing you say… And I have to say, I was always like three is not a fit because no – sorry for all the threes listening, but you’re not gonna do like some nonprofit that has zero branding and get zero credit for an entire movement. So, I’m like, no, that doesn’t fit. One, I could kind of see.

Amy: I remember we were sitting, it was you, me and Jamie Ivey, and you guys were talking relentlessly about this Enneagram thing and I resist all trends. I’m like, “Oh, it’s so stupid.” And about a year later, I started digging in. But I remember having that conversation and you guys were both doing what you’re not supposed to do, which was speculating what number I was out loud to me.

Jessica: So true. So true.

Amy: And then finally, I read “The Road Back to You” and I thought, “Oh, okay, so this isn’t a behavior personality style thing. This is the why we do what we do thing.” And that is a big differentiator for me in the Enneagram. It’s no, no, no, why do I produce? Why do I like to stay busy? Why do I like hard conversations? Why do I want to engage politically online? And it’s all, it’s because I feel like when the tension comes, the good is coming up. The good is being stirred. The good hard, as Katherine Wolf calls it. Like, this is the good hard stuff of life. And once there’s tension, we’ve got to it, we’ve sifted it, we found it.

“I feel like when the tension comes, the good is coming up. The good is being stirred.” Amy Wolff

Jessica: Well, and healthy good too, which explains the entire Signs of Hope. And then explains why you would show up for me at night after a long day of corporate clients to say, "I just want to help you not talk with your hands."

Amy: It’s not, not talking, it’s using them a little less.

Jessica: Using them a little less, just kidding. Using them intentionally.

Amy: That’s right. That’s right.

Jessica: Intentionally. Well, Amy, we like to wrap up by asking you how you are going scared right now.

Amy: I have worried about this question. I listen to your podcast I know it’s coming. This might sound really unrelatable to a lot of people or perhaps relatable, but I really have a hard time identifying fear in my life. I am kind of a do-what’s-right-in-front-of-me kind of person and tackle-what’s-in-front-of-me kind of person. And I’m sure there’s fear, I just don’t name it fear.

So, I’ve thought about this the last couple of days. I think the movement, it’s called the Don’t Give Up movement and you can find us on socials, @don’tgiveupsigns on Instagram and Facebook, but that has really been uncomfortable for me, as I explained previously of, oh, a lot of this is around mental wellness or mental illness. And that has felt scary to me, that I would, again, say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, not be honoring. And that is scary.

I would say the second part in this is just timely, it’s what’s right in front of me. This freaking book thing, Jess, is terrifying. I was really vulnerable. I write about things that are nuanced and a lot of people don’t like nuance, and I write about the nuance.

I am unapologetic about belief systems, but then I also challenge those belief systems. And I just, I’m worried about certain parts of the book where I was really honest. I’m worried that it’s not faith forward enough for my friends that I share my faith and it’s too faith-forward for the secular audience who I really wanted to honor in this book also. So, it’s so nerve wracking.

Jessica: Amy is so comfortable in uncomfortable conversations. She leans in with grace and humility and has a commitment to be generous in her presence and how she listens. I had the experience moment after moment of putting my hand on my heart throughout this podcast conversation. Ah, I loved it. I loved it, I loved it, I loved it.

So, I am going to leave you with this from Amy’s book:

Friends, let’s not underestimate the power of simple, kind words in the right place at the right time for the right person. Let’s not wait for someone more qualified or less broken to spread hope and love.

To keep up with Amy, you can check out her site amynwolff.com and dontgiveupsigns.com. You can also follow Amy on Instagram, and you can check out her book, “Signs of Hope.” It is a beautiful hope-filled read that you will not want to miss, especially right now.

Our wonderful music for today’s show is by my good friend Ellie Holcomb. Going Scared is produced by Eddie Kaufholz. And I’m Jessica Honegger. Until next time, let’s take each other by the hand and keep going scared.