The things I’m learning.

Brenda Porter

David Letterman’s Late Show was famous for its top ten lists. In keeping with that excellent tradition, I share my list. Here are the top three things I’ve learned from the pandemic.

Number 3: God’s World Is Medicine for the Soul. I now look forward to my regular walks along the Mississippi River, and even now that summer is long past, I pull on my boots and head out for a sunset walk two to three times per week. By the time I get home, I feel refreshed, relaxed, and able to keep things in perspective. As research is showing, spending time in a natural environment can lower blood pressure and stress levels. Corrie ten Boom wrote in The Hiding Place that she would look out of a high prison window each day just to enjoy the beauty of the blue sky. How much more I’ve been able to enjoy—the freedom to walk the river, hike wooded trails, and walk in the sand on the Florida coast.

Number 2: People Can Adapt and Learn. As we headed into the early days of the pandemic, some students and teachers were familiar with Google Classrooms; others were not. I remember the sinking feeling I experienced when I looked at a blank Google Classroom page and realized I had to fill it with accessible, user-friendly content. Students likely felt the same when they looked at the first week’s assignments and wondered how they were going to do it all! One day at a time, we found our way through. We have not often faced such dramatic challenges in 21st century America, so it is great to know that we can adapt. How exciting to realize that God has equipped us to meet challenges, think flexibly, adjust, and learn new things. Instead of asking why, we can ask what. What can we learn?

Number 1: “I Choose the Gandalf Option.” One new source of learning for me this year has been The Trinity Forum. Their mission is “to cultivate, curate, and disseminate the best of Christian thought, to equip leaders to think, work, and lead wisely and well.”  A Trinity Forum talk given back in July featured Alan Jacobs of Baylor University. A listener concerned about the challenges facing our country asked Jacobs, “What option might you propose that would best tend and mend our collective brokenness towards integration, unity, and shalom?” Jacobs’ answer surprised both him and his listeners. “I choose the Gandalf Option.” He goes on to describe it as the choice, despite difficult circumstances, “to nourish and care for and strengthen, to feed and water the gardens that we hope will produce fruit for our children and our grandchildren.” I love being a part of the Gandalf Option at Morning Star, where we continue to “strengthen the things which remain” (Revelation 3:2) by teaching our students to seek truth, appreciate beauty, and practice goodness.

It won’t be COVID-19 next time, but there will surely be a next time. By God’s grace, students at Morning Star will receive an education that equips them to be life-long learners, ready to find beauty in God’s orderly world, ready to adapt to unexpected circumstances, ready to ask God what they can learn from the challenges they will face.

Brenda Porter teaches English, writing, and rhetoric at Morning Star Academy. She and her husband, Rob, are the parents of three grown daughters. 

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