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Mormon Media Observer: Gratitude: a balm for all that's dark in the news

Published: Monday, Aug. 22 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

Whoever you are, thanks.

Last Monday for a Family Night activity, we biked to wonderful G’s Dairy store a few blocks from my house in Rexburg. It was dusk as we returned, and the city fathers in Rexburg had rerouted construction traffic off Pioneer Road, through the neighborhood and along Park Street, at least tripling its normal traffic. All but Adam, the youngest, and I had crossed Park Street.

I’d picked up Adam’s bike from the repair shop earlier that day. The black and white dirt bike is still a little big for him, and he was bustling to get home, a little unfamiliar with the changes to the bike following the recent repairs. From a dozen yards behind, I watched as Adam failed to slow and look both ways, cruising into Park Street.

And I then I saw the car coming straight on. I yelled, “Adam. Adam. Adam!” It was too late. There was nothing I could do but watch as an accident that surely would have sent my boy flying off his bike onto the pavement to serious injury or worse.

Except it didn’t happen. The car screeched, and the only things that hit Adam were the focused beams of two headlights a couple feet from my little guy.

The driver gently tapped the car horn in admonishment and disappeared into the neighborhood. I didn’t have time to see if it was a woman or a man. I shook at how close his life had come to being part of a news story. I hugged my boy for a while longer that night.

Then it occurred to me. What if the driver had been drinking or under the influence of drugs? What if the driver had been texting? What if the driver had been speeding? Certainly the outcome would have been different.

In a world where dark news stories dominate our attention, I was grateful that someone had been doing what he was supposed to be doing, paying attention, showing care and obeying carefully the law.

The world is full of such people because I have met many over the years, and there is reason for gratitude for them and for so much else.

Now, it is an axiom that young people read the news less often than those of the older generations. I suspect there are lots of reasons, but one of the reasons I see when I talk with my students about this fact is that reading the news can be such a downer.

Just look at it this week: Strange gangs that organized on social media coming together to steal and to inflict violence. Irresolute politicians who sought gain without principle. Dictators who killed their citizens brazenly. Stock markets that tumbled.

Avarice. Murder. Idleness. Lust. Secret combinations. It is all there, waiting to depress us.

But my momentary terror on a street corner this week reminded me that the cure for this darkness in the news is gratitude.

I am grateful for so many things.

For peaches and raspberries. For softball and Facebook friends.

For summer nights on the Snake River Plain where the temperature is gentle and where children still play night games across several neighborhoods.

For symphonies — like Shostakovich’s 5th and Rachmaninoff’s 2nd — that beckon deep emotion and tell stories worthy of heroes.

For books and for Shakespeare. For the satisfaction of hard work.

For Terraced Falls in Yellowstone’s backcountry and for Zion Park's Emerald Pools.

Yes. I am also grateful for my Mormon heritage, for those that crossed the Sweetwater and for those who couldn’t make it that far. I am grateful for The Book of Mormon, a beacon in a troubled world, and for a God who provided all this to us, just because he loves us. Grateful for the matchless gift of his Son.

When the news of bad comes over the Internet, as it will each day, I vow to remember with more gratitude so many blessings.

I vow to acknowledge so many good, unseen people who have made my life better Monday and always — those scientists and doctors who made Adam’s healthy birth possible in the first place; those engineers who studied the most effective ways for brakes to work; those headlight manufacturers and technicians who checked and rechecked for quality. Those who made the tires on that car that worked as they were supposed to do.

There is even gratitude for the government bureaucrats who tried to make standards for vehicles that might save a life one day — standards that likely helped a week ago.

And last, I am grateful for a driver who took care to obey the law that night.

News can be discouraging, but there remains so much for which we should give thanks.

To you all, and especially to one careful driver, whoever you are, I thank you. I thank God for you.

Lane Williams teaches journalism and communication at BYU-Idaho. He is a former journalist whose scholarly interests include Mormon portrayals in the media, media and religion, and religion and politics.

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