Take time to give thanks
November is a month to celebrate Thanksgiving—something I think we should celebrate all year. However, let’s focus on this Thanksgiving, which is like no other in our history. Our world seems to be spiraling toward chaos. War and natural disasters cover the land. We’ve just gone through a contentious national election. Winds like nothing I’ve ever experienced have uprooted trees and ripped roofs off houses. COVID-19 surged out of China, causing more than a million deaths around the world. Earthquakes and tsunamis hit the Middle East. Countless people lost their lives and many more were left destitute. The weather mayhem made dealing with the highly infectious virus even more difficult.
When Mother Nature shrugs, she shows us how puny we really are. And boy did we feel puny 15 years ago when Katrina roared through, flattening the Gulf Coast and setting in motion a chain of events that spread destruction for thousands of square miles.
I’ve watched incredible pictures broadcast for months before our election of unrestrained mobs burning and looting, even destroying precious statues celebrating our history. It’s tempting to despair. I’ve wondered why in the world anyone would destroy monuments and statues honoring George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Washington has rightly been named the Father of the United States of America. Through miraculous means, he led a successful war against the world’s most powerful army. Contrary to many successful military people, he refused to be a king. He, with those who had pledged their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor,” developed a constitution that became the model for freedom seeking countries around the world. Abraham Lincoln was elected and served during the Civil war, a time when families were ripped apart over whether the United States would survive and slavery be destroyed. Lincoln was assassinated only a short time after he was re-elected. I’ve reflected many times on the words of concentration camp survivor, Victor Frankl, “…everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances….”
I saw looters with guns who threatened police and rescue workers and frantic refugees lining broken highways, but I also saw strangers split a small bottle of water and bedraggled swimmers stumble from a city awash in sewage who exulted in finding a dry place to stand.
You, my readers over the years, sent me emails that described your fears and faith. Some of you wondered about what was happening to the human race and why disasters turned people into saints or criminals. Like many of you, I see these unprecedented events and the ever darkening world as fulfillment of biblical prophecies. As I’ve repeated in earlier columns, peace and safety cannot come from governments or other people; they lie within each of us. How we respond to disasters indicates our characters.
You and I know of people in identical circumstances who have very different reactions and, thereby, very different feelings about circumstances. I have a friend who died from a painful form of cancer. When she was diagnosed, she was stunned but she didn’t dissolve into self-pity. Always an upbeat sort of person, she continued her sunny or calm reactions to her situation. During her last weeks she reduced the amount of pain killers to keep her head clear so she could say goodbye to her loved ones. We who came to visit and cheer her left with lighter hearts.
Another acquaintance also suffered from a fatal disease but she let her illness defeat her. She railed at her doctors and God and died almost alone, because she was so bitter and angry that the air in her room seemed full of dark fog. Few people wanted to be subjected to that darkness.
Our Player Family motto, “Life is a test to see if we can respond positively to negative situations” summarizes the message I want to leave with you as we celebrate Thanksgiving and begin the Christmas season.
May each of us find the internal strength and faith in God to withstand the challenges that have always been a part of mortal life. May we face the real evil in a darkening world and push it away with the light of love and compassion.