Finding Peace in the Midst of Uncertainty

Posted on November 26th, 2020 by

It’s been a rough year.

But today, I will recall my conversation with family camper Kim this week, that made me laugh so hard my spouse, Leandra, came out of her office afterwards and said, “You sounded so happy.”  Because, during these times, happiness can sometimes seem like a treasure you can’t remember where you buried.  When you find it, relish it.

Today, I will recall my visit with Mary, who last week was able to help me successfully untangle most of the knots inside my head. (Unfortunately, there will always be some, hence the term, “knot head”).

Today, I will recall all the friends who have held me up this year when I have stumbled and picked me up when I have fallen.

Today, I will recall Leandra’s (usually) calm way of saying “Did you mean to leave the refrigerator door wide open again, Neal?” My answer from the other room is always, “Of course!”

And I will recall the text our daughter, Madeline, sent from college yesterday proudly displaying her new red rain boots.  (I will not tell her she might be forgetting she is returning to Minnesota in December, not to Florida).

Today, I will recall everyone who works for a more just world.

Today, I will recall the video that the Litt family sent in, with their own TLC COVID verses to Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’”, which I play when I want to remember what unself-conscious joy looks like.

And the video that adult campers Andrew and Tobie sent in, in their pajamas, singing along to and perhaps (?) butchering the “Serenity” song, complete with their dog, who was masked up appropriately for the taping.

Today, I will recall the ten days that my dad stayed with us, while my mom slipped in and out of danger in the hospital until she was finally deemed well enough to go home.

Today, I will recall the moment my supervisor, Steve K., talked with me and, unknowingly, helped me emerge from a COVID-driven depression, simply by saying, in effect, “You’re doing the best you can.  And I know that.”

Today, I will recall writing a song for Gustavus in the midst of darkness, called Light on the Hill, written for my colleagues who continue to work tirelessly, or is it tiredly – or is it exhaustedly – to bring light to others in dark times.

Today, I will recall the moment I said to someone who was trying to uglify my life (just made that word up, I kind of like it): “I get to be the author of my own life story, and it is beautiful.”

Today, I will recall TLC’s strategic planning committee this year, who had to take a 90 degree turn when COVID hit, and how they turned despair into hope, darkness into light, and fear into courage.

Today, I will recall Barb Wilkinson putting a smiley face on a racket this summer.  Just one.  As an act of hopeful defiance for our campers, that TLC will go on.

Today, I will recall Kevin running around in his Jello Man blow up suit in our summer videos, and I still laugh every time I think of it.  And Kinz, calmly forging on through TLC’s disappointment of no camps, choosing instead to turn challenges into opportunities.

Today, I will recall camper Seth, arms eternally thrust in the air with joy from a TLC photo a couple years ago.  Forever, in that moment, a seven-year-old.  Forever making me smile. And Natalie, his sister, with her own, quiet smile, making the junior high tennis team for the first time.

And Raina, who kept reminding herself of what she learned at TLC that is actually important, and so came away from a tough loss at peace, because she had given everything she had.

Paul, who whispers, “Three Crowns, Three Crowns, Three Crowns”, whenever he is in danger of forgetting.

David, TLC’s beloved instructor who died in a car accident Thanksgiving 1994, but whose voice I still hear saying, “The grass is green, the sky is blue, it’s a great day to be alive.”

And Steve Wilkinson, who started this place with nothing but a crazy dream.

Today, I will recall you.  All of you.  I know you think that sounds impossible.  But it isn’t.  I think of you as the “Great TLC Collective”.  The people who have caught this vision and driven this mission.  The 60,000 campers and staff members who have attended.  The parents, the supporters.  The people who have taken the Three Crowns to heart in their own lives and carried it into a troubled world as an offering of peace.

And with that, I answer for myself, the question “Where do I find peace in the midst of uncertainty?”  It comes from gratitude, remembering, recalling.  And recommitting.

Today, what do you recall?  Tell your loved ones. They could use it today.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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  1. Kate Shaughnessy says:

    Thank you for making gratitude a core practice of TLC and stopping to photograph the wonders of nature. I have begun to look for these photos to remind me that there is not complete darkness, but also light and beauty.

  2. Anne Cullen Miller says:

    Neil you are awesome. I am grateful for the good fortune of crossing paths with you and the TLC family. Thank you for your leadership and dedication to making the world a better place, one person at a time, one day at a time. 🎾

  3. Beth Gilbertsen Betts says:

    Thank you for reminding me to be thankful. I just read the national and world news this morning and it’s hard to smile after all of that.

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Hi Beth,
      I agree. It has been such a hard year. When I listed these things out and sat with each one, it made me smile more than I’ve smiled in awhile. I need that pause to head back into the fray. Onward we go together….

  4. Gaylon Rust says:

    Thanks Neal,

    Appreciate the reminders to be thankful for the blessings in our life. I was recalling the gratitude minutes on court which are a great addition to the camp experience.

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Thanks, Gaylon,
      The gratitude minutes are my favorite anchors of the TLC day as I forget so quickly. I was thinking of kidneys and you the other day. Thank you for your inspiration.

  5. Steven Gabbert says:

    I am so grateful to have you in my life! You make everything better with your love, reflections, and the way you make us feel about each other! Thanks for the blogs!

    Steve and the girls

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Hi Steve,
      I am grateful to have you and Paige and Eleanor in my life! Can’t wait to see you on the other side of this pandemic!

  6. Deb Vetter says:

    Have a blessed Thanksgiving! Reflecting is always such a blessed gift for each of us. Thank you.

  7. Lynn Beaty says:

    Your willingness to always be there and have the words I need to here when I’m down and out.Listening to you sing at my dad’s memorial service and you just being you.Happy thanksgiving.Lynn

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      You have no idea how much you inspire me with your daily courage. Happy thanksgiving,

  8. John Wilkinson says:

    Thank you, Neal, and Happy Thanksgiving.

  9. Brad Olson says:

    Love this Neal. Thanks for reminding us the gratitude is so important always, and especially in these trying times. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Hi Brad,
      You’re welcome. It helps me to break gratitude down into small things otherwise I don’t take time to remember. And it’s very tough during these times. But you renew my desire to keep trying. See you this summer!

  10. David Wareham says:

    Thanks, Neal – for this moment of peace.

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      You’re welcome, Dave. So many people have helped me through so much this year. Thanks for reading all the way through, lol!

  11. Linda LeClaire says:

    Thank you Neal! You are amazing! I love this blog and all the images that come to mind as I read it! Happy Thanksgiving to you and Leandra. Thank you both for the love and joy you bring to the world in so many different ways! I feel your presence in my life and am blessed because of it. You make me laugh. You make me smile. You make me cry. You make me reflect. You make a difference in my life. Love and hugs, Linda 💜