Give thanks: What I learned from Russell Herold and J.J. Hunter

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It’s easy to be thankful when things are going well.

But what about when they’re not?

A few weeks ago I had a conversation that changed the way I view gratitude.

I had been spending some time with Raelene and Russell Herold, who lost their 16-year-old son Adam in the Humboldt bus crash six months ago. It’s pretty hard to be grateful when these things happen. Adam’s parents are broken, his Grade 12 classmates are devastated and our community is still grieving deeply.

As I rode the combine with Russell, and talked about all the things that would not be and could not be, my heart sank. So many things that would never come to pass for Adam—the start of a school year, the start of a hockey season in the WHL and the beginning of a new season of life for a teenaged boy on his way to manhood.

Russell and I hashed over the unfairness and all of the pain.

But somewhere in the middle of that combine ride on that sunset-backed fall evening as the abundant wheat crop swayed in front of us, our conversation took a turn.

Russell talked about his recent conversation with JJ Hunter, a Shaunavon, Sask. grain farmer and a member of the Hunter Brothers country band. The crops in some parts of southwest Saskatchewan were not as good as those in our area so JJ and Russell had talked about what that would mean.

Just when I thought Russell would tell me how difficult and hard it would be for JJ and his family, he said this profound sentence that has changed my definition of ‘gratitude’:

‘We’re just thankful for what we DO HAVE,’ JJ told Russell.

What JJ still had was ‘some grain’ to put in the bin. Maybe it wasn’t a bumper crop, or maybe it wasn’t even enough to cover costs, but it was enough.

Because when you’re truly grateful, you see things as they are, not as they could be.

And while ‘as they are’ is not always perfect, or even good or even fair, there is always something to be grateful for—food on the table, freedom outside our doors, communities to offer support and friends to lift us up.

To buy Christalee Froese’s uplifting book, Journey to Joy, click on the square at the top of this page and go to ‘Buy Book’!

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Russell Herold combining with passengers Christalee & Journey Froese

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J.J. Hunter

5 thoughts on “Give thanks: What I learned from Russell Herold and J.J. Hunter

  1. Thank you for this messsge. We lost our son Troy daughter-in-law Carissa and our grandchildren Kael, Shea and Maks in a horrific car accident on June 29th. As difficult as it has been we try to be grateful for something each day and we cherish the time we had with our precious family. ❤️

    • Oh Kelly – I’m so, so sorry for your loss. It must be unimaginable grief! I admire you for your survival and strength. We are actually good friends with Paula & Bailey (Repp)—we spent some time with Bailey this summer and she is still so broken and sad. How can you not be? We lived next to Carl & Paula in Kimberley and remember Carissa and Bailey and Grayson playing together. My husband remembers them playing too, on the rocks in the back yard. We share in your grief and we send our love!

  2. I just read your blog for the first time Christalee and this hit very home for me. I have tried very hard to find the gratefulness since the passing of my dad. He always looked at life this way and sometimes it drove me crazy! I wanted to wallow in my story – dad and instead he would find the good in the story no matter what. Since he has passed away I have tried to do two things that I admired in my dad every day – find what we should be grateful for and tell a story (as he was a great story teller). I feel if I can do these small things I will continue his memory and make him proud

    Thank you for sharing your story
    Tanya

    • Thank you for sharing this Tanya – I think your dad would be so proud that you are following in his footsteps. What a gift he gave you!

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