Someone posted on my son’s college FB parents’ page a picture from another college. An announcement of a mental health day called by the president of that college. Something along the lines of “y’all (yes it was in the South) are under a lot of stress, catch up on work and decompress.”
They posted this with the suggestion of how nice it would be at our college. This was met with many comments of appreciation, and a few that said we need to teach our children to adult. They have the weekends to decompress and they need to learn to navigate these difficult times.
There is surely truth in that response. College is the time to learn to adult. We cannot just pamper them and coddle them.
But, that’s not the whole picture, is it?
We have a new dog in our lives (my last post was about burying our former dog.) He is rambunctious, nearing 80 pounds and still all puppy. And he forces me to take him outside multiple times a day. At least two or three times we go up in the woods and throw sticks.
Well, I throw sticks and he sometimes brings them back.
He gets me outside every day, though. Even in the mud and the rain we have had the last several days.
So I started sweeping the woods.
I have a little rake that is actually my daughters, and we started cutting more trails back there. I rake the trails while Bear sniffs and runs around. And sometimes attacks the rake.
Right now, every day the trails are covered in leaves when I come outside. So I have to start all over and sweep the woods.
It’s fairly pointless, really. The leaves come back even between the visits during the day. But…raking those leaves gets me outside and slows me down and gives me space to breathe and pray and think.
And I love how the trails look after I sweep them. Well, rake them.
This has become a rhythm of the day for me.
And sometimes leave a few of the best leaves in the middle of the trail.
Because, part of the process is also paying attention to the leaves and the colors and how everything changes.
So what does that have to do with mental health?
Well. I think sometimes we need the excuse to create some space for health and some space to recognize that things are not easy right now. I have to walk the dog. There were a few weeks when I just walked him…but then I began to make it a rhythm to my day and something that spoke life for me. Breathing. Colors. Sunshine.
I don’t think it is coddling or weakness to tell our college kids to take a day and decompress and breathe.
Or our adult kids, or our teens, or our children. Or ourselves.
I think we need the space to remind ourselves of hope and of joy and life.
I have dropped off social media for the most part lately because I have friends who are passionate about different candidates. I have friends with a wide range of beliefs. And sometimes, while I love having those differences, the passion can become noise and the conversations can become exhausting.
I can’t imagine how that feels for the college kids. Especially those voting for the first time and choosing between Trump and Biden…and well, Kanye. And trying to see their future and be excited.
We do have a hope though. And we do have grace. We need to think deeply about our politics, and we need to be challenged by those who think differently. And we need to find a way to do that with compassion and not anger, with patience.
I read this from Frederick Buechner and I so needed to hear it. Maybe you do as well…
“Then at last we see what hope is and where it comes from, hope as the driving power and outermost edge of faith. Hope stands up to its knees in the past and keeps its eyes on the future. There has never been a time past when God wasn’t with us as the strength beyond our strength, the wisdom beyond our wisdom, as whatever it is in our hearts–whether we believe in God or not–that keeps us human enough at least to get by despite everything in our lives that tends to wither the heart and make us less than human. To remember the past is to see that we are here today by grace, that we have survived as a gift.“
Sometimes we need the testimony of the saints…and sometimes we need to remember we are the saints with the testimonies. Buechner continues:
And what does that mean about the future? What do we have to hope for, you and I? Humanly speaking, we have only the human best to hope for: that we will live out our days in something like peace and the ones we love with us; that if our best dreams are never to come true, neither at least will our worst fears; that something we find to do with our lives will make some little difference for good somewhere; and that when our lives end we will be remembered a little while for the little good we did. That is our human hope. But in the room called Remember we find something beyond it.
I love that paragraph. There are good things purely humanly speaking. There are stories of hope, and there are stories of kindness and goodness. But…they are limited. Continuing with Buechner…
“Remember the wonderful works that he has done,”” goes David’s song–remember what he has done in the lives of each of us; and beyond that remember what he has done in the life of the world; remember above all what he has done in Christ-remember those moments in our own lives when with only the dullest understanding but with the sharpest longing we have glimpsed that Christ’s kind of life is the only life that matters and that all other kinds of life are riddled with death; remember those moments in our lives when Christ came to us in countless disguises through people who one way or another strengthened us, comforted us, healed us, judged us, by the power of Christ alive within them. All that is the past. All that is what there is to remember. And because that is the past, because we remember, we have this high and holy hope: that what he has done, he will continue to do, that what he has begun in us and our world, he will in unimaginable ways bring to fullness and fruition.“
“Let the sea roar, and all that fills it, let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall the trees of the wood sing for joy,”” says David (1 Chron.16:32-33). And shall is the verb of hope. Then death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning or crying. Then shall my eyes behold him and not as a stranger. Then his Kingdom shall come at last and his will shall be done in us and through us and for us. Then the trees of the wood shall sing for joy as already they sing a little even now sometimes when the wind is in them and as underneath their singing our own hearts too already sing a little sometimes at this holy hope we have.
The trees of the woods shall sing for joy…and drop their leaves to make us pause and listen.
Finally, from Buechner:
“The past and the future. Memory and expectation. Remember and hope. Remember and wait. Wait for him whose face we all of us know because somewhere in the past we have faintly seen it, whose life we all of us thirst for because somewhere in the past we have seen it lived, have maybe even had moments of living it ourselves. Remember him who himself remembers us as he promised to remember the thief who died beside him. To have faith is to remember and wait, and to wait in hope is to have what we hope for already begin to come true in us through our hoping. Praise him.”
God is here. We have hope…and He has shown us that throughout our lives. We need to pause and remember sometimes.
We need, sometimes, someone to remind us to take a day and decompress and pause and catch our breath.
This is going to be a stressful week coming up. No matter what happens, it is going to be stressful. But, no matter what happens, we have hope. And we have kindness. And we have patience. And we have grace.
Find your version of sweeping the woods. Catch your breath. Speak hope to someone. And if someone offers a mental health day to your college kid, and you think it is just weakness to do that, well, maybe keep that to yourself.