Pearls of Possibles

Plaza de Beneficencia, San Juan, Puerto Rico

A statue of Eugenio Maria de Hostos (with children dancing overhead) stands in the Plaza de Beneficencia (Charity Square) in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Sculptor Jose Buscaglia Guillermety honored Hostos’ extensive influence in the region by naming the monument, “The Great Citizen of the Americas.” Hostos believed that independence in Puerto Rico and Cuba was a possibility and worked tirelessly to accomplish his goal. He was disappointed when the U.S. rejected his proposals. Not all possibles make it to the finish line.

And yet, Hostos was successful in other possibilities. He traveled extensively and reorganized educational systems in the Dominican Republic (establishing a Teachers College despite local opposition of churches), in Peru (advocating for Chinese people living there) and in Chile. As a professor at the University of Chile he campaigned to allow women into colleges in 1873. Also, Hostos was successful in the development of a railroad system between Chile and Argentina with the first locomotive given his name!

Hostos’ essays covered sociology, psychology, literature, law, and philosophy. He earned acclaim as one of Latin America’s first systematic sociologists. He valued a growth mindset for his culture. Hostos held onto possibles despite great challenges.

In First Nation peoples there is a tradition of a “possibles bag.” Originally, these were leather pouches containing something from the plant world, animal world, mineral world as well as something from human life. For example, one’s possibles bag might hold seeds, herbs, animal teeth or claws, feathers, rocks and bones that were believed to possess some spiritual value. The meaning of a possibles bag includes the fact that plants and animals provide what one needs for life sustenance, while a feather can “smudge” with sweetgrass or sage smoke to invoke spirituality.

Later the possibles bag was adopted by frontiersmen. Their collection also was motivated by “needs”–tobacco and pipe, tin cup, jerky and other edibles, knife, black powder, powder measurer, and flint. A gun slung over the shoulder perhaps was most valued among their day-packing items. What represented their spirituality?

Today we might ask ourselves the same question about spirituality.

On daily TV grinding-down news, I cringe when I see soldier after soldier bearing heavy backpacks to hold onto sustenance. Perhaps they carry pictures of loved ones? One side carries an invisible possibles bag of hopes for independence from an aggressor. The other side must have an invisible possibles bag too. What are their values and hopes?

The war in Ukraine rages on with relentless numbers of families torn asunder–both innocent bystander families and families losing soldiers on both sides.

Surely, we can do better in packing our own invisible possibles bag. Writer Annie Dillard muses, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz:

74. What causes, activities, or groups have you joined as an ardent supporter?

75. What part does spirituality and/or religion play in your possibilities?   

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.


  1. Thank you Jan, for another interesting and informative message. Love the picture of the sculpture and the Annie Dillard quote


  2. Marching in protest against Viet Nam war and campaigning for Barack Obama by registering people in Indiana were very meaningful to me.

    Participation in United Power for Action and Justice for medical care, affordable housing and training police to recognize mentally ill.


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