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You Keep Standing

by Charlene Paul

“Rock bottom is a scary place, but it can also be a pretty good foundation on which to stand and rebuild.”

For anyone who took a breath during 2017, I do not need to tell you it was a rough year.
Hurricanes, earthquakes, massive fires, floods, wars, skirmishes, name-calling, discontent, loss of life, record-breaking heat, and political posturing were just some of the trials we faced. As I sit here writing today, the horrible events of the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas are fresh on the minds of everyone. I’m sure I am not the only one whose legs feel a little rubbery and wonders how we will ever be able to remain standing.

To think the actions of one man could devastate and change so many lives in the matter of a few minutes is mind-boggling. To think a natural disaster could displace tens of thousands and wipe out entire towns and villages is staggering. To think that one spark could be the beginning of so much destruction is shattering. And stuffing those events, and more, into one short year, three hundred and sixty-five days, is paralyzing. The question of how to live without merely surviving must be answered.

As I looked back over the year, the bleakest moments seemed to push away any glimmer of hope that might be waiting just beyond the horizon. It’s like we are all part of a human version of the Whack-a-Mole game. Just as we come up for air, someone or something whacks us on the head, and down we go — too battered, too bruised, and too tired to get back up. It is so much easier to stay down in the gloom and darkness rather than stand and take a step into the light.

In the midst of trials, it is easy to see and focus only on the pain, sorrow, and devastation. Media outlets grab the sensational without touching on the human kindness, as if to tell us there is little, if anything, of true worth left in our world. Looking more deeply into each of the aforementioned events, however, I found nuggets of treasure whose worth cannot be counted or tallied.

I found a nugget of hope in the faces of those who left jobs, families, and homes to head to Texas or Florida or Puerto Rico or Montana or Brian Head or Mexico to help rebuild and serve. I found nuggets of dedication and determination in those who spent countless, sleepless hours attending to the wounded and dying. I found a nugget of courage from those who put their lives on the line for freedom every day in every corner of this world. I found a nugget of gratitude for those who stayed behind to keep family and community functioning. I found a nugget of humility from those who stood in lines to give blood and from those who fed the hungry crowds. I found a nugget of tenacity in the faces of brothers and sisters I have never met. I found a nugget of boldness as men and women of all races, creeds, denominations, and political leanings joined together with grit and persistence to not allow others to suffer alone, not allow catastrophe to oppress, and not allow evil to win. I found a nugget of faith in the human spirit. These are the treasures of the human experience.

A few days after the shooting in Las Vegas in October, my husband and I decided to drive down the Strip. The first things I noticed were four billboards welcoming visitors to our city with the messages, VegasResilient, VegasTogether, VegasGrateful, and VegasStrong. The row of fifty-eight white crosses with red hearts and blue hearts in front of the Welcome to Las Vegas sign could barely be seen because of the hundreds of people gathered around carrying candles and quietly showing their respect. Driving on, billboards, lighted signs, and messages on vehicles simply read, Pray for Vegas and #VegasStrong. And on many of the hotel marquis, the simple message, “We’ve been there for you during the good times. Thank you for being there for us now,” shown white on black backgrounds. A permanent half-acre park in downtown Las Vegas that was built in a matter of days with fifty-nine trees commemorating those who lost their lives was filled with crowds gathering for First Friday events.

As we drove, I was more aware of the police officers doing their jobs to keep the city safe. I was more aware of people enjoying themselves in spite of the tragedy. I was more aware of the treasure of life itself.

I am hoping 2018 will be a little easier and a lot less eventful, but no one can promise that will be the case. In reality, there will be broken hearts that need mending, concerns that need listening ears, tears that need drying, backs that need patting, and legs that need strengthening. And there may be times when staying down feels like the only option.

Don’t you believe that. Don’t you stay down and allow life’s burdens to keep you from becoming who you are meant to be. Don’t you lose faith. Don’t you give up. Don’t you quit. You keep standing. We need one another, now more than ever. When you hit rock bottom, raise up your hands believing help will come, because prayers are most often answered by those around us. Rock bottom is a scary place, but it can also be a pretty good foundation on which to stand and rebuild.

Yes, 2017 offered challenges none of us would have ever awaited in gleeful anticipation. But 2017 also taught us that we are more than separate, special interest groups. It taught us who we really are and what we can accomplish when we step outside of ourselves and into the world of light and hope. At the close of 2017, glance back for a small moment and say goodbye to the year. Then take a deep, cleansing breath as you look toward 2018. It might not be all sunshine and roses. There will surely be unforeseen events, good and bad, but there will also be nuggets of treasure for each one who is willing to seek them.

I wish you and your family a blessed Holiday Season and a joyous New Year. It is my sincere hope that you will find the courage, faith, hope, and strength to stay standing.

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