HOPE Between the Lines

Poem w Chris V

By: Amy Cavalier, Communications/Development Coordinator

When Chris V. finishes writing a poem, it gets filed away in one of two places ─ a blue shoe box or the trash. Someday Chris V. hopes to see some of that work that made it into the shoebox published in a book for audiences to read.

“All writers throw away a lot of lousy writing,” he said. “Only the good stuff gets published.”

After purposely flunking out of the State University of New York at Cortland where he was studying physical education based on his parents’ wishes, Chris V. worked to pay his way through college, beginning with Monroe Community College followed by the State University of New York at Brockport.

His dream was to be a writer, not a physical education teacher.

“One of my college roommates at Cortland read me some poetry,” he said. “I knew it the minute I heard it, that was my calling if I had one.”

It has been Chris’ lifelong dream to see his poetry published.

“If it’s meant to be, I’ll publish a book someday,” he said. “It’s been the toughest battle in the world, but where there is hope, the dream lives on.”

He graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in English from SUNY Brockport, ranking eighth in his class. He was in his mid-20s and teaching abroad in Thailand when he had a nervous breakdown. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Chris, 69, has held over 20 different odd jobs over the years. He served as a mail carrier in Penfield for 10 years, drove vans for DePaul, and also worked in retail, factories and on assembly lines.

The poem about life after death was inspired by Chris V.’s years teaching English to students in Thailand in the early 1970s.
The poem about life after death was inspired by Chris V.’s years teaching English to students in Thailand in the early 1970s.

Progress & Accomplishments

A DePaul client for 18 years, Chris V. said he’s been making a lot of progress with the help of DePaul and his Supported Housing Specialist Christina Mastin. Before entering Supported Housing in 1996, Chris V. lived at the Jones Avenue Community Residence and at a Treatment Apartment program. He said he’s been able to get a new bed and box spring, a comforter, lamps and curtains. Mastin said Chris is a creative and bright individual with a beautiful appreciation for life.

“Chris has come a long way on the road to recovery and no matter how difficult his setbacks have been Chris has shown me there is nothing he can’t learn from,” she said. “His determination to fulfill his dreams of becoming a published writer is so inspiring. I’m proud of Chris and all he has accomplished. I know he will be published someday!”

Inspiration

For Chris, writing is therapeutic. He does his best work in the quiet, early hours in the morning or at night.

“Sometimes they come to you real good and sometimes you’ve got to dig around in your head,” he said.

His inspiration comes from his education, his family and his friends.

“I like to write about insights, nuances and subtleties of life that people might not have thought about,” he said.

There’s the woman he knows who’s been in a wheelchair her entire life or Olympians who are running with metal legs or setting records in pole vaulting with one arm ─ “stuff like that is really inspiring to me.”

Chris was diagnosed with kidney disease eight years ago and now requires dialysis three times a week.

“Who am I to complain?” he said. “I have hands, feet, toes, fingers.”

Susan White, Chris’ cousin who lives in the Southern Tier, is working with her son-in-law who works in the publishing business to pull together a small booklet of Chris’ poems.

“I think it’s a very important outlet for him to be able to put his feelings, emotions and thoughts into words,” she said. “I’ve pursued dreams and been able to accomplish them and I’d like to be able to help him realize his dream of getting his work into print so he can share it with others.”


So much can happen in the course of a day at DePaul. No two are ever quite the same. Just as the people we serve are all unique individuals with different backgrounds and varying needs.

The accomplishments are many, though some you will never see. They take place with each small triumph made by those we serve every day. Join us in celebrating the positive difference made by DePaul.

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