Driving down the road to school, trying to keep the speed down and still arrive on time, I listen as my boys engage in the usual morning tradition of bickering with each other.
“No! I can whistle if I want to!”
”No, you can’t! It’s annoying me!”
The older one continues to whistle. The younger one thrusts his fist across the seat, punches his brother in the arm, and yells, “I said STOP!”
What started as a calm and sleepy-eyed ride to drop the boys off at the front gate has quickly morphed into a grade-school power-struggle.
“Enough! That’s it!” I apply my deepest voice. I can feel the anger rising up within me, the frustration overshadowing love and thankfulness. This is not how I want our mornings to go, I think to myself as I struggle to come up with a solution.
“Okay, boys. You have a choice: remain quiet for the rest of the drive or play the Thankful Game.” Let’s hope this is a moment of genius and not a can of worms that I have just introduced.
“What’s the Thankful Game?” Both boys are curious. Their competitive natures and their love of anything remotely close to “fun” is getting the better of them.
We begin taking turns naming anything and everything we are thankful for: candy, puppies, flush toilets. It can be funny or serious, big or little. We just don’t stop until we get to our destination. You know what I begin to hear? Giggles. Laughter. Silliness. Joy. I feel the restoration of light push out the darkness. Why? Why did such a little game create such a big change? We listed things we cared about. It took the emphasis off of the negative and onto the positive. When we care, change happens. I care about my boys, and I care about their attitude, so I do what I can to change it.
At the beginning of Season 1, Episode 3, of When Calls the Heart, Elizabeth jumps to a conclusion that Wendell Backus is harming Rosaleen Sullivan, but by the end of the episode, Elizabeth notes in her journal that “the light of love restores every lost voice.” Often, when we are angry or hurting, we jump to conclusions or we lose our ability to communicate effectively. Just as my boys yell or hit or wrestle, others crawl into a shell and hide from the world, like little Rosaleen or they use vices to drown their voices, hoping to silence them completely, like Wendell Backus. When that happens, the caring light of others creates a safe place to become vulnerable and let our own light shine again. All my little boys needed was an “attitude adjustment,” but when the light is buried deep beneath the rubble of hurt and guilt, it takes the understanding and compassion of a community to restore it.
How did Cat Montgomery gather such a large congregation in a “grove of trees” every Sunday? “I don’t preach,” she explains. Instead, she shares stories of truth that provide understanding. Through understanding, individuals begin to share their own stories. Elizabeth listens to the unspoken story of little Rosaleen, caring so much for her that she accepts a hug instead of a goodnight and a picture instead words. Over time, the caring hugs and the loving understanding allow Rosaleen to share her pain with others. When Jack approaches Wendell in an attempt to discover to wherabouts of Rosaleen, he pauses to take a step back. He cares enough about this drunken miner to listen and understand the guilt he feels for surviving a disaster that others did not. In the end, the miner returns to the community, understood and accepted. In the end, the lost little girl finds her voice.
You see, caring and compassion restore us. It started with one Man who cared more about his friends than life itself. And it is our God-given task to continue that mission. We need to take our time to truly care, not just provide empty words and cursory attempts at understanding. As we care for others, we will see the darkness restored to light.