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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Advent Thought
Today's Word:  Resilience

In hospice we are often tempted to give the easy and wrong answer. Something like …
“It will be fine.”
Of course not all things will be fine. Even, and maybe especially, in the midst of joyful holiday times like Christmas people struggle and hurt. At times we all do.
I love the Christmas story. In my home are several nativity scenes. But I’m always reminded of what happened after Jesus was born in a manger amid angels and shepherds and magi. King Herod, angry and afraid for his position, murdered all the children under two years of age in Bethlehem hoping to destroy the “newborn king.” My nativity scenes remind me of Good News and of pain.
A phrase haunts me from the King Herod part of the story, a quote from the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah who says, “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning; Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because they are no more.”
That’s the phrase: “refusing to be comforted.” Try telling the parents of Bethlehem, “It will be fine.” This Christmas season we are dramatically reminded with the tragic and senseless slaughter of children and adults in Newtown, Connecticut. What could comfort these families? Wouldn’t they also “refuse to be comforted”?
Our nation will, and should, seek ways to prevent these things. We want to understand what makes a killer and how to prevent it. My few words can’t do those things. All I can do is remind us all of a couple of truths.
There is always pain, often tragically so: from Newtown to the time of the Nativity and even back to the beginning when Cain killed Abel at the creation. We always need to recognize the reality of hurt in our world. Many of us have pain in our own lives.
But, there is also always joy. For those who face tragedy joy comes neither quickly or easily.   I would never try to tell the Newtown families or the parents in Bethlehem, “Hey you will have joy.”  That's no different than saying "It will be fine."  But joy will come, even there. I’ve seen mourning folks go from crying to laughing and back to weeping in an instant. The crying may dominate at first but humans are created to be resilient and can “bounce back and adapt”** to new circumstances, even tough or tragic ones.
Like many of you I will hug my grandkids a little more this year. I will continue to watch the funny Christmas movies and do all the trivial and enjoyable things of the holiday but also appreciate the relationships I have and acknowledge the pain of life.
No, life will not be “fine” but there will be joy. And joy is better.

**”Bounce back and adapt” is a phrase used by Red River Resilience, a group which works to create community resilience. Check for more information on resilience.

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