“Sometimes,” said the horse. 
“Sometimes what?” asked the boy. 
“Sometimes just getting up  
and carrying on is 
brave and magnificent.” 

-Charlie Mackesy  
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse

Sometimes the days are dark. Sometimes the days are lonely and cold. Sometimes the burden on our shoulders is just light enough that we aren’t crushed beneath it. Some of the time we experience death,  loss, grief, a global shutdown. Some of the time we feel our hurt, we carry the hurt of others and even the pain of our ancestors. Sometimes the life we know turns and flips and shatters all sense of knowing and perceived understanding, leaving us stunned, confused, in utter disbelief. In these times of trouble, being thankful is not always easily attainable. 

The most recent turning and flipping for me came in the past three months as I ventured into an elementary school to fill a temporary school counseling position. It became clear early on that this was not going to be a simple or easy task. Not only had I been out of the school system for 10 years, but  I had adapted quite well to working from home, dictating my own schedule, spending a considerable amount of time outside, and not to mention living at an even slower pace than my typical slow place due to the spreading virus and required isolation. 

My first few days were spent learning how to use a PC with a clunky keyboard, understanding all the Google applications, and bringing lamps into the office so I could turn off the overhead fluorescent lights that were triggering migraines. The office also had no windows and was freezing cold most of the time. Immediately just my working environment was shocking to my being.  

The first day with students came and we welcomed them into the building, the hallways filled with young faces and voices and energy. With the fast-paced school days, it didn’t take long for me to begin my work with the students as the needs began appearing. Before I even knew it, I began carrying the burdens of these children, of their families, of what these students brought to school with them every day. I saw the brokenness I knew was out there, but seeing it in front of me on the face of a seven-year-old made it very real.

This job quickly became a time of being in the desert, of being in the trenches with these kids and teachers, not a lighthearted way to earn a paycheck. Up until five days ago, I gave nearly every ounce of what I had to the students and teachers and parents of this community,  leaving me tired and exhausted and nearly empty. If I am honest, there were not many moments of thankfulness during these three months, but I was getting up and I was carrying on. 

Two days ago, on a Monday morning when I was back at home standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes, thankfulness overwhelmed me. Thankfulness for the students and teachers and parents I was able to meet, thankfulness for the opportunity to give what I had to give, thankfulness for the peace and quiet space of our kitchen, and thankfulness for the moment to just breathe.  

So maybe in troubled times, it’s okay to accept the burden, to accept the weight of what we are carrying.  In times of trouble, maybe it’s okay to not have thankfulness as the central outpouring of our minds but rather the bravery and magnificence of what it takes to simply carry on, trusting thankfulness will arrive when our hearts are truly thankful.

Julie Geisen-Ritchey

Julie Geisen-Ritchey

Jules grew up in southern Indiana and has lived in Michigan, California, a brief time in France and has now settled into the farm life in Markleville, IN.  After graduating with a MA in School Counseling from Andrews University in 2010 her life took a different path, leading her in an unexpected nomadic way of living for 3 and a half years.  During this time of moving about in Michigan, staying in North Carolina and New York, traveling through France and several trips to Indonesia there was much to learn about culture, people, family, and herself.  Finally in 2014 Jules found her new home with Cliff and Cove and Bella and has been settling into doing photography and music with Cliff and learning the ways of motherhood. Life couldn’t be more different and better than ever imagined.

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