Words of Hope: Facing the Year of Fear

On March 11, 2020, we received news the March Basketball Tournament was closing. Games were canceled across the country. We met as a staff in the conference room for the last time. I told everyone, “Now, we must live out our words, all courageous slogans; these must be put into practice.”

Each day that year was a lesson in navigating fear—a year of fear. Fear of Covid, financial collapse, losing employees to health or other jobs, or losing our friendships to frustration or bitterness. 

I could feel the anxiety waking me up at night. I started to look at the news. We went from hoping to run camp to canceling one of the largest early registrations in our history. We had to face canceling camps and finding ways to survive an entire season without revenue. My team are good friends; many have small children and mouths to feed. 

I called the team, and I said you only have one requirement. No matter what you do all day for NBC, you must write down twenty-five unique gratitudes daily. Each day, our team wrestled with ways to say thank you. It was a lesson in courage to overcome the constant barrage of anxiety and uncertainty. In the impossibility of planning for camp, we planned ways to encourage each other, play fun games online and find ways to laugh with each other over the phone or via zoom. 

Joy was a daily conscious decision. Richard Rohr says that maturity is the ability to joyfully live in an imperfect world. For ours, it was a world of uncertainty. We disciplined ourselves to find joy even during the year of fear. I didn’t love writing down the gratitudes, but I knew they were essential. As I began to focus and meditate on the things of beauty in my life, I began to sleep again; I began to feel courage and problem-solving return to me. Each day as our staff stopped for as long as necessary to write down twenty-five things of beauty, the words of thanks healed us. 

Dad believed in the importance of daily gratitude. I keep a number of his journals on my desk. Many are filled with snippets of Psalms and short recollections of people he was thankful for. Dad’s strength through cancer Dad’s strength through dying was in large part due to his daily discipline of gratitude. Dad writes on day 159 of his book Words of Hope, “Join me today in writing down five gratitudes before you go to bed. It’s the best way to beat cancer, and it’s the best way to live joyfully.”  

“Give thanks to the LORD, because He is good; His love is eternal!” – Psalm 107: 1