“....The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. We all must have something to love.”
-American clergyman George Washington Burnap and repeated/attributed to Immanuel Kant, a philosopher of the 1700’s.I remember these words being part of the first unit of the middle school health book I taught out of in the 90’s. Assuming its truth, one can quickly conclude of the importance of meaningful activities, meaningful relationships and a hopeful look to the future to experience strong holistic health. Certainly good physical health is an essential part of holistic health. But one may conclude that many present health issues stem from meaningless activities, lack of personal relationships and not seeing meaning in life. When one considers the issue of trauma in the classroom, increased depression and anxiety for all ages and more expressions of despair (note increased suicide rates) and the impact these have in our community (stresses upon schools, hospitals, social ministries), one has to do more than fix the results. A deeper solution needs to be considered.While it is debatable if Burnap’s/Kant’s statement is wholly true, observations can certainly point that the antithesis of their statement is contributing to our society's sobering downward spiral. Consider the following-
Meaningless activities- Time in front of a handheld device, a computer or a television (for gaming, movies, and other binge-watching) has overtaken opportunities for free play, reading and hobbies. Recent research has warned of the negative outcomes of hours of screen time- obesity, skewed realities and short attention spans. Other meaningless activities create an incessant need for accolades, rather than supporting intrinsic satisfaction. Participation awards are just one of many ways in which society has poisoned the growth of generations into a lack of grit and determination.Lack of meaningful relationships- Screen time has also impaired or replaced familial relationships (e.g. phones out at supper), conversation in a school hallway and in public discourse. Add to this the “busyness” of families and individuals, and it’s small wonder that so many folks, young and old, are knowingly and unknowingly longing for a relationship that is more than superficial and not limited to Twitter-like conversations. It’s no wonder that even worship has largely moved toward a need for emotional experiences rather than simply experiencing God’s gifts through His Word and sacramental gifts.Nothing to hope for- Social media and daily news inform us the earth is dying and is an increasingly dangerous place to live. The earth is burning up, the oceans are taking over our coasts and Mother Earth is experiencing traumatic pain. In real time, we see catastrophes and tragedies from around the world as though they are all in our neighborhood. The result is lamenting of what other horrible events may come our way.Where do we turn? Expend millions of dollars on treatments during an opioid epidemic? Direct opportunities and resources for more self-help programming? Encourage volunteerism and community activism to find purpose in life?Let’s recognize and value Lutheran Schools as a major key to any healthy community, certainly any healthy home. While one may consider Burnap’s and Kant’s thesis as a simplistic look at life, it’s not much of a task to take their ideas and find healthy expression in the lessons taught in Lutheran schools and accept them as strong components of a vibrant life- dare I say, “Life to the fullest?” How are these issues addressed? Someone to love- ”Love your Neighbor” permeates classroom management policies and procedures, interactions among staff, and opportunities for the school to show compassion. The Second Table of the Law (Commandments 4-10) teach us the many ways in which God directs loving acts to family and community.Something to do- Martin Luther’s teaching on vocation shares much about doing...and it all is lived out by grace. We teach, encourage, and model what being a family member, citizen and fellow brother/sister in Christ is all about. And while responsibility and accountability are taught, forgiveness and love carry-out these lessons.Something to hope for- Lutheran schools have a heavenly bend. Sin and all its ramifications are found in our schools. But hope is also always in our schools. The valleys are not places of fear but of hope. Rough periods are embraced as times to look to Christ who strengthens us in faith. We press on, not for personal gain. We press on with a motivation that is beyond human understanding.But what is even more of a treatment plan, including preventative, is the all-encompassing healing of Jesus. While we preach and teach of Christ and Him crucified for the forgiveness of all sin (healing with eternal effects), we can be sure that our year’s message of “It’s all about Jesus” is also true for a healthy life.Someone to love- God knows we can’t get over ourselves. We are a selfish breed. So God shows us what real love is and loves us even when we push him away. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”- Romans 5:8. Love divine, all loves excelling, Joy of Heav’n to earth come down; Fix in us thy humble dwelling; All thy faithful mercies crown! Jesus, Thou art all compassion, Pure unbounded love Thou art; Visit us with Thy salvation, Enter every trembling heart (Wesley)Something to do- It’s the great message of the Reformation that fulfills this notion of something to do. Grace is all about what God has done for us, not what we do for him. Try to make this grace more of an obligation and it becomes a burden and not a blessing. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God”- Ephesians 2:8-9. How about that for bringing contentment to our “busyness”!Something to hope for- Faith-filled eyes see what Jesus has prepared for our future. Heaven is waiting. The ultimate fear, the certainty of death, finds hope and comfort in Jesus. His words of forgiveness are sure. His words of encouragement are sure. And the fact of His Resurrection brings the certainty of our eternal life with him. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” John 11:25.