...if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things!
I really don’t like living alone, so my son, Derek, and daughter-in-law, Julie, with their two children grown and away in college, were kind enough to move in with me last year.
Julie teaches at our local Middle School, and it has been a revelation watching her. She seldom sits down without a stack of papers in her lap to grade, or lessons to prepare. I have learned that a forty-hour work week is laughable to a dedicated teacher.
This morning I awoke at five o’clock and stumbled downstairs for coffee. Julie was already up, dressed, and sitting at the kitchen table with the contents of my button basket spread around her.
“Good morning.” She held up a small circle of burlap upon which she was busily sewing buttons. “I hope you don’t mind. I’m doing a project with my students.”
“Sure.” I poured water into the Keurig and popped in a pod of the strongest coffee we had. “I don’t mind.”
I stared at the Keurig, willing it to hurry and finish so I could jumpstart my brain with caffeine. My to-do list was long. Then it hit me. Buttons?
“We’re making ornaments from found objects today,” she said. “And I thought if my students made these, they would learn how to sew on a button—many of them don’t know how—and it would also help them consider recycling found objects into useful things–like Christmas ornaments!”
“One of the other teachers at school has a whole Christmas tree decorated with things the students found and turned into ornaments. I’ll send you a picture of it when I get to school.”
We are not exactly an affluent community here in southern Ohio. Incomes tend to be low, parents struggle to find jobs. Knowing how to sew on a button or make-do with homemade ornaments can be a valuable skill.
All of which got me to thinking. The news we watch tends to focus on terrible and fearful things. The media has to do that, I guess, in order to keep ratings up and stay on the air. But that is not the whole story. If we rely on that for our sense of reality, our perception of society can become very twisted. The true reality is that there are so many everyday people who are just trying to live their lives while doing good and decent things.
Last weekend, I watched two volunteer moms shepherd a group of children through a Christmas play. As my four-year-old granddaughter, dressed as an angel, solemnly watched over a baby Jesus, it occurred to me that there should be a special place in heaven for those people who calm nervous children and help them put on their little Christmas plays.
Anyway—for those who might be struggling with a feeling that the world is going to hell in a handbasket—here’s a scripture to help push against the darkness. It’s one of my favorites. A recipe for mental health from Philippians 4:8.
“Whatsoever things are true,
whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are just,
whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are of good report;
if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise,
think on these things.”
So today, just because I can, I give you the image of my daughter-in-law getting up before dawn to prepare to teach her students how to thread a needle, sew on a button, and make pretty ornaments out of scraps of material. And of earnest children in churches all over the world, trying to remember their lines while watching over a baby Jesus.
In other words “…if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things!”
Merry Christmas, my friends!