What Will We Tell the Children?

Stunned and Searching 

By habit and profession, it’s my personal pattern to attempt to put words around things that are sometimes bigger than words can carry. So, here I go again, reflecting on the stunning surprise of Donald Trump being elected President of the United States. 

The election doesn’t change any of the concerns about Trump that I’ve written about in the past year, but it puts them in a different perspective.

With the picture of my granddaughters going to the polls with their mother in mind, I’ve settled in on the question:What Do We Tell Our Children?

That’s a particularly challenging question because so much about the past behavior of our next President has been a bold-faced contradiction of the most basic values by which we try to raise our children. So, here’s my random attempt to answer that question. 


It’s great to live in America. 

We’ve been through the most divisive, mean-spirited, relentlessly fact-free and often vulgar political campaign in any of our lifetimes. But now that the votes have been counted, we move into another peaceful transition of power. Hillary Clinton’s concession speech represented something very good about being a citizen of this nation. 

Sometimes the bullies win.            

Our daughter, Deborah, who experienced her share of bullying in school, said it feels like the playground bully was elected Homecoming King. It’s a hard fact of life, but we can’t hide it from our children. Just because we try to be decent people who do our best to treat others the way we would like to be treated doesn’t mean that we will get chosen for the Homecoming court. The good guys don’t always win…at least not in the short run.

Sometimes people rise to the level of the task to which they have been called.  

Visiting Monticello and looking out across the Washington Mall this summer was a visual reminder of the ideals that gave birth to our nation and that continue to call us toward “a more perfect union.” We can hope and pray that as Mr. Trump prepares to take the oath of office he may feel called to rise above the vulgar, narcissistic, xenophobic, racist emotions that he unleashed during the campaign. If he lives into the words and spirit of his acceptance speech, it may be a sign of hope.

The arch of moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.

Dr. King often quoted that line as a way of giving hope to people during the civil rights movement. Our children need to know that the work of freedom and justice is never fully accomplished; we work toward a goal that is always beyond what we have achieved. In the words of Ted Kennedy: “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

Remember who you are. 

The thing that defines our identity is not that whether we are Republican or Democrat, win or lose, but that we are followers of Jesus Christ. That changes everything. Our primary citizenship is not in the USA, but in the Kingdom of God. (Philippians 3:20)  We are called to live by values that are sometimes consistent with our national values but are never superseded by our national interests.

I can’t help but pass along this message from my friend, Neil Alexander, who just retired as the President of the United Methodist Publishing House.

Welcome sorrow and defeat for all they can teach us about the depths of human experience and our reliance on the mercies of God and our need for each other.

Stand, sit or lay with all who suffer because in doing so we share a deep and wretched pain that awakens our souls and imaginations – and places us at the center of God’s graceful work in the world.

Do all of that and then by God get up, shake the dust from your shoes and start doing the things that make for genuine peace and merciful justice.

We lost last night. Big time.

What will we learn and snatch from the ashes of defeat? How will we awaken to the factors and forces that expressed their will with such ferociousness yesterday?  How will we increase our empathy for the aspirations and fears that made themselves heard while we stood by as if dumb and obtuse?

Let’s be alert and vulnerable, but not wallow. We will learn much from this. We will adapt and regroup. We will grow wiser and even more determined.

Trusting God’s promise we will not abandon hope. Instead we will boldly choose to live into hope by faith in things not seen.

We will not deny or hide our despair. But as we embrace it we’ll simultaneously turn on a dime and go to work.

We will not retreat or fade away. We will step up. We will choose life.

Grace and peace,


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19 thoughts on “What Will We Tell the Children?

  1. Well said and what I needed to hear today. I will share it with friends and family.
    Thank you.

  2. Dear Jim,

    Thank you for articulating just the right words and focus needed on a very hard day!

    Rob Fuquay

  3. Williams Russell November 9, 2016 — 8:46 pm

    Thanks Jim for given significant meaning to our personal lives at a time like this! Russ Williams

  4. As so often happens, you have provided just the right perspective. You are such a blessing to so many! Thank you.

  5. Thank you, Jim, for words of encouragement, hope. Judie

  6. Thanks Jim, you have a way of putting into words that are ideal. I too will Pray for our Great Country to somehow come together. T.C.


  8. Gretchen Hastings November 9, 2016 — 11:30 pm

    Thank you, Jim.

    Sent from my iPhone

  9. I posted this on my friend’s page, and here is her response. 🙂 Oh Carrie … I love this so much. So many great words from him and Neil Alexander. SO true when your dad says: “Our children need to know that the work of freedom and justice is never fully accomplished; we work toward a goal that is always beyond what we have achieved.” Wise, wise words. Sent from my iPhone


    1. Carrie: Thanks so much for passing on this response. I wrote it both out of my own need and for the sake of my grandchildren!

  10. Here’s another 🙂

    Carrie Harnish Ferenac This is the best thing I have read on Facebook all day. Thank you for sharing and thank your dad. Sent from my iPhone


  11. Thanks, Jim. I am heartbroken.

  12. Thank you for saying that in the way only you can convey it! I’m trying really hard to find some light in this.

    From: Jim Harnish To: gcaron8@yahoo.com Sent: Wednesday, November 9, 2016 3:21 PM Subject: [New post] What Will We Tell the Children? #yiv9085868606 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv9085868606 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv9085868606 a.yiv9085868606primaryactionlink:link, #yiv9085868606 a.yiv9085868606primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv9085868606 a.yiv9085868606primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv9085868606 a.yiv9085868606primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv9085868606 WordPress.com | jimharnish posted: “Stunned and Searching By habit and profession, it’s my personal pattern to attempt to put words around things that are sometimes bigger than words can carry. So, here I go again, reflecting on the stunning surprise of Donald Trump being elected Presiden” | |

  13. This was beautifully written and immensely helpful for us grieving souls.
    Thanks, Jim.

  14. Thank you, Jim for these inspiring and hopeful words of wisdom!!!

  15. Thank you Jim for these words… they help and remind my heart that love overcomes hatred; that reconciliation overcomes anger, hope overcomes fear and that God in Jesus Christ brings about new life in a time when it may feel just the opposite.

  16. Thank you for your reflection. Praying that changes to come are for the best
    And reminded that we can never take anything for granted. One percent was hugh In this situation.

  17. Are you kidding me?? You think Trump is the bully in this election? How in the world can you call yourselves Christians and support Hillary Clinton who out loud and directly supports late term abortion? This is absolutely mind blowing. The “good guy” in this election did win.

  18. Wise words, Jim!

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