One cold evening last week, Dan put a fire in the fireplace while I set out plates and a dinner buffet on the kitchen counter, and all evening long, we laughed, talked, ate, and reminisced with longtime friends who were in town for a getaway with their family. Rob and Lori were our neighbors years ago, at a time when our mutual children grew from adolescents to teenagers, and I’m sure that they were far more of a help to us than we were to them, as life’s ups and downs carried us on the waves of that chapter of our lives.
As we sat laughing and talking together over dessert and tea with Rob, Lori, their two grown daughters, their son-in-law, and a grandson, I could not erase the picture of a then-15-year-old Jennifer in the living room of our old home, leaning over the hospital bed of our then-15-year old daughter Sarah, washing Sarah’s long hair as she lay flat on her back in traction… and then patiently brushing out Sarah’s long, wet hair. At that time, Sarah was flat on her back for seven long weeks, having been brought home from the hospital by ambulance and settled into a hospital bed delivered into our living room, to recover from a seriously broken pelvis after a car accident. Watching Jenn, I thought my heart would break at the sight.
Like ours, Rob and Lori’s kids are all grown up now, and like us, Rob and Lori have become grandparents. It isn’t surprising that Jenn ultimately became a nurse, just as her older sister Alana did. After sharing those precious years when Jenn and Sarah signaled each other with towels from their own houses, studied Spanish together at Lori’s table, and rode their horses down beautiful country roads, Jenn–like Sarah– is married now, starting her own young family. But I don’t think I will ever in my whole life forget that act of kindness and service that Jenn, only 15, expressed to us.
So often, life seems hard, and these days, it’s become even harder. Sometimes it seems that the “evil” in the world is winning– and yet we can’t forget that good is a much stronger force! To combat the negativity that’s all around us these days, I’ve noticed notes from several individuals lately, consciously recording little things in life that they are grateful for. This effort to focus on the “good” instead of the bad has really impressed me, and convicted me that I too need to consciously focus on the multitude of blessings–no matter how small– that surround me.
Even more, remembering Jenn’s act of kindness has rekindled an appreciation in me for the people in my life who have made burdens so much lighter by their acts of goodness or expressions of kind words. When I started to consciously think of individuals who have been that kind of a blessing to me, one after the other, I was stunned to realize that there really, honestly was no end to the list! Somehow, I’m ashamed to admit, I had been too easily tending to focus on irritations and the individuals who make life harder, instead of easier. But there’s no victory in that! I only end up digging my own hole to fall into, and life becomes a burden instead of a joy, difficulties seeming insurmountable.
Sure, there’s an awful lot of evil in the world right now. But Romans 12 tells us not to let it win! I think I’ve realized one more way to do it– by focusing on and truly appreciating the people in my life who have been instruments of good– and refusing to be swallowed up by the bad. We can’t deny that there’s much evil in the world– but it doesn’t have the upper hand. The end of Romans 12 exhorts us, “do not be overcome by evil– but overcome evil with good.”
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