Words that Inspire: Stories that Light Up the Dark

The Experiences of Our Ancestors Offer Us Wisdom for Surviving Today’s Crises.

We do not control the environment, but we do control how we respond. … My grandmother said that when you lose hope, you lose everything.

My grandfather used to tell me I could keep certain sunrise moments alive in my memory. My grandfather trained me to look for moments when I was seeing something that would some day help me to remember the goodness.

He taught me to keep them vivid—smell them, taste them, and see them—so that when things got really bad, I could go back there. I remember the first time I did that, there were a bunch of moments that meant nothing to anyone else where the world was filled with beauty.

When things get really bad, I go into those moments … and I’m okay.

Family story of Victoria Hykes Steere, Iñupiat Community, Arctic Slope, Alaska

Note for Educators

If your students heed grandfather’s advice, they will look back through memories and moments that stand out, and use these in the future as sources of strength.

Here are three activities that will help your students create or discover narratives of inspiration and resilience:

1)   Look back at moments in your life when you truly felt alive or felt goodness around you. Can you taste or smell those moments? Write about such a memory that conjures these feelings, and that you might go to lift your spirits when life seems overwhelming.

2)   Commit to memory a time when you dared to be brave.  Pull those feelings forward in a story or written passage where your tenacity or other people’s goodness were remedies to a challenging or bleak time.

3)   Have a conversation with your parents, grandparents, or other family members about your own family’s stories of strength and virtue. How did your great grandma feed her family during World War II? When the mill laid off many of its employees, what did Uncle Stewart do for kids whose families couldn’t afford a baseball uniform? Discover at least one “we can get through difficult times” story from your family.

YES! Archive
  • Stories that Light Up the Dark: Read Sanjay Khanna’s full article, written for A Resilient Community, the Fall 2010 issue of YES! Magazine.


October EdNews snapshot

READ NEWSLETTER: Go Green! Go Simple! Preparing your students for an uncertain world


Inspiration in Your Inbox

Get the free daily newsletter from YES! Magazine:
Stories of people creating a better world to inspire you and your students.

Sign Up