The headlines in the past several months have been shocking to me. Thousand-year floods. Category 6 (if it existed) hurricanes. Natural devastation. Island communities now uninhabitable. Mass murders vying for the unfortunate title of “deadliest in modern day history” in their respective geographic areas. Whole families gone, whether by the forces of nature or the evil of humanity.
It seems absurd to even move into the holiday season of thanksgiving and peace and joy, knowing that so many are having the hardest holiday season of their lives this year. It feels callous to be thankful.
As homeschoolers, my husband and I have more options than some about what to share with our children from the news, and at what ages. We have not shared much recently, especially about the human-caused tragedies. Our nine-year-old is aware of some of it, but not all of the details. Our kindergartener, not at all.
I’ve been reticent to share much with them for several reasons. I want to protect their innocence. I want to protect their sleep from bad dreams, and their waking hours from unnecessary anxiety. But I also haven’t been sure how to follow it up – what to say after “this really awful thing just happened” when they are waiting for me to tell them everything will be OK, like all their stories end. What narrative do I want them to receive from it?
What I’ve come down on, scant weeks before Thanksgiving, is just that – being thankful, and one of my favorite Bible verses, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” Not for all circumstances, but in all circumstances. Because in all circumstances, even the absolute worst, there are things for which I can be thankful.
Are you wondering how to be thankful in this season? Maybe your personal world is falling apart from loss or stress or broken relationships or health or an uncertain future. Or maybe, like me, it feels like the world at large is going mad. Here are five things that I’m focusing on now and in the future.
Mr. Rogers said this, too, that when he was a child and scared by what he saw on the news, his mom told him to look for the helpers. Such wise words! I’m thankful for the professional helpers in our world, the first responders, who dedicate their lives to helping victims of natural and man-made tragedies. Firefighters, policemen, paramedics, medical professionals. They are the people I take for granted on a regular basis, but in a world gone mad, I am ever-so-thankful for them.
I’m thankful for the courage of ordinary people. For certain, that applies to the professionals, firefighters who go into burning buildings to save lives, but it also applies to ordinary folk, like the two men in Texas who confronted and chased the shooter in Sutherland Springs on Sunday. Like teachers who shield their students from danger. Like children who stand up for a friend on the playground. Courage is a beautiful trait, and I am thankful for it.
I’m thankful for modern communication that lets us know when tragedies happen. It’s a double-edged sword, for certain, because if I didn’t know about a tragedy on the other side of the country, I wouldn’t be so distracted or anxious about it. But at the same time, modern communication lets us know that our loved ones are safe, or about how to help. And since it’s not going anywhere, I’m thankful for the ways it can be used for good when things go wrong.
I’m thankful for opportunities to make a difference. I’m thankful that while I might feel helpless, I’m not. I can send donations, I can petition, I can vote, I can set up a meal train for a family in need, I can be in a Facebook group that looks for ways to meet needs when a thousand-year flood hits my state, I can comfort my own children and reach out to neighbors. I am not just a pawn. I can do something when everything seems to be falling apart.
I’m thankful for faith, because when tragedies happen, you still see people offering prayers. And in spite of the way those prayers are sometimes belittled as too little too late, I’m thankful that a good number of people still go to God for strength and wisdom and comfort in the worst of times. Is that ALL we should do? Well, no – but not even the Bible says that. I’m thankful that in a world that seems to have gone mad, there is faith – both my own, and the examples of others who I look to.
These are the things I am thankful for in this season of Thanksgiving, and that I am sharing with my children, as I raise them in what seems to be an increasingly unstable time in history.