I spent most of this warmer weather day working outside, clearing out all my flowerpots and putting my garden to bed for the winter. This activity always leaves me feeling a bit melancholy, as does the season, as the hours of daylight diminish towards the solstice. I have found over the years that this is always a good time for me to practice the daily habit of reflection on beauty. As the trees here are dropping their last leaves, I sometimes have to look harder to see the beautiful in the sweep of the branches or the outline of a stand of trees against the dusky sky. Ezra and I expressed our appreciation yesterday for the way the Lake Street businesses install twinkle lights along the street so our darker drives have a bit of sparkle. I love to hear the crunch of all the fallen leaves under my shoes when I walk through the park. There is beauty to enjoy if I look for it.
It is also easy to feel melancholy when I read the news or listen to the radio as there is always one more negative political ad or one more report of boorish behavior, another sexual assault or report of war or famine. There is so much suffering in the world and often it seems that few care about the world beyond their own household. I have found that this season is also a really good time to practice gratitude by taking care to notice that which is good, pleasing, commendable and praiseworthy as Philippians teaches us. So, today as I was working outside here are a few of the things I reflected on:
A few months ago we received a notice that we would begin receiving a small monthly donation from a donor. We are always grateful for all our supporters, but this seemed noteworthy to me. The donor is a young woman in her 20’s who, when I sent her a note to say thanks, told me that she had received a small raise at her first post-college graduation job working for a non-profit across the country and had decided to share her bounty. This young woman used to send us a donation sometimes even when she was a high school student working a part-time job. A parent’s greatest hope is that one’s children grow up to follow the Lord and live lives of good character. May the hearts of her parents rejoice that the life of giving and the values they have modeled are being carried into the world in the life of their daughter. Let us all reflect and rejoice that such young people are taking their place in leadership in our country.
Last week, I discovered that another young man, dear to my heart, was volunteering four hours a week in an afterschool program at a school serving needy kids. This, in addition to a full academic course load and ten hours a week of student work in another charter school serving the most at-risk students. Another young man recently had to face injustice at his college and stand up for himself when falsely accused of disruptive behavior. How much courage it takes to confront injustice rather than just go along with what might seem easier. Both of these young men are making a point of sharing their gifts with young people who don’t have the advantages of others and are doing what they can, to do something for others. We rejoice in God’s work in and through them.
I am so grateful for these young people and the gift they are in the world. While the news might be full of things that are bad, I can look around and know that God is at work in the world through young people like these. I hope that all of you, in this season when the light diminishes, will remember along with me that God’s light and love are still at work in this world of ours. As we give thanks for beauty and express gratitude for those who live lives of caring and character, we rejoice most of all that the light of God’s love does not diminish with the seasons but remains alive in our hearts so that we can all keep shining through God’s grace.