A Place of Despair

How can we acknowledge and respond to the profound loss - understood expansively - experienced in the opioid epidemic? Participants will explore examples of despair and what our responsibility is to respond in the face of suffering.

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Introduction: Individual Reading (5 Minutes)

  1. Pass out the book excerpt “Despair.” Ask for a volunteer or have the facilitator read the poem out loud. Then give the audience 5 minutes to read it a second time on their own, making notes of things they find interesting.
  2. Do not allow for any questions or comments about the poem.


Engagement: Direct Paraphrasing (30-40 Minutes)

  1. Once everyone has finished reading the poem. Ask them to summarize the poem in no more than 2-3 sentences. This should consist of a paraphrase. Give the audience about 5-10 minutes to complete this task.
  2. After the 5-10 minutes, ask the audience to turn to another participant and share their response. Direct the audience to rewrite their paraphrased summaries incorporating each other's ideas, but still staying within the 2-3 sentence structure. Give participants 15-20 minutes to complete this.
  3. Once groups have rewritten their paraphrases, ask the group if anyone would like to share their work. If a natural discussion does not form, facilitate a dialogue using the following prompts:
    1. What was most difficult for you in summarizing this piece in 2-3 sentences? 
    2. Did any groups have similar summaries? If so, what similarities did you capture from the text? Is the language similar or different?
    3. Did any groups have drastically different summaries? What were the major differences between your two responses? Did you have difficulty in reaching consensus?
    4. Based on the responses of those who have shared, what are some of the insights or themes found in this poem? If you had to pick two key themes from our discussion this evening, what would they be?
    5. What does it mean to support my charity?


Conclusion: Wrap-Up and Next Steps (10 Minutes)

  1. Announce that 15-minutes remain for the session.
  2. Summarize the main points of the discussion. What were some of the key takeaways? Were there any differences in opinions? Any controversies? Were any major points about establishing place not addressed in the conversation? 
  3. Wrap up the session by speaking about the manuscript, additional resources, etc. Exchange contact information and continue further conversations if needed.


Reading: “Despair” by Gerald E. Greene (Dayton)

There is a place not far from me—

a place of despair.


Its poets tell of life within,

where hope is seldom found.


Its fruit of crime

adds pain to discouragement,

striking out where it lives,

revealing its presence,

and affecting those it loves most.


Its path leads to confrontation

with self and society,

driving its victims downward

in merciless surges,

like waves on ocean’s shore,

pushed by nocturnal tide.


The young man wearing no shirt or shoes

stands on the stoop,

shouting at the driver

of a car parked at the curb.


Words of anger followed by retreat

into an apartment to retrieve the gun

frighten passers-by.


Neighbors hide in fear.


An hour later, all seems peaceful.


“How do I survive in a place

where heroin is easier to find than hope?”

a young girl asks the next day.


What should the preacher say?

Is she there for God’s reason

or should she flee?


The opioids beckon with sweetness

and promise of relief.


All seem happy for the moment,

with despair’s underside.

A counterfeit time sucking life

from the future, establishing its cycle.


Despair thrives in that place,

and I seek ways to help.


But answers elude.


So, I support my charity.


Gerald Greene is a retired businessman who enjoys volunteer work, from serving as a spiritual coach to helping newly arrived refugee families relocate to Ohio. He is active in the Dayton literary community.


These Community Conversations are funded by the Ohio Humanities Council. For further information, as well as information on rules for use, please see OpiodsOhio.org.