Jonathan Bryan is a 15-year-old Christian living in Wiltshire, England. Born with cerebral palsy, he has very little control over his body and cannot speak. Instead he speaks and writes by looking at letters of the alphabet stuck to a Perspex board and spelling out everything he wants to say. Using this way of communicating, he has written a book, Eye Can Write, and founded a charity called Teach Us Too. His hobbies include writing, baking, listening to classical music, and flying to different parts of the world on Microsoft flight simulator.
Jonathan is an inspiring example of faith, hope, joy, and gratitude. He wrote this letter for Aleteia to share with other young people to encourage them during this time of pandemic.
We are the generation who will have spent the highest proportion of our lives being affected by the pandemic, and as the countries of the world start to emerge from the effects of successive lockdowns, we can start to think about how our lives will be altered going forward.
But first we need to look back at the past year, and consider where we have seen the finger of our Lord writing on the canvas of our lives.
For me the last 12 months have been a challenge as I have been shielding and unable to attend school, with school work reduced to boring worksheets and not seeing my friends in person for months, which makes me feel lonely; but they have also brought great opportunities for learning new things about myself and my faith.
During the first lockdown there was a lot of uncertainty as the concept of the pandemic and its consequences were so new and unknown. But one of the most dangerous things gripping people was fear. It invaded our mental health and paralyzed our ability to live well. So during spring last year I started a discipline of writing something I was grateful for each day, which I posted on Twitter under the hashtag #ThankfulNotFearful.
Having set myself the challenge I wasn’t sure I would be able to find different things to be thankful for every day, especially as not much was happening, but I found the exercise humbling. Connections with friends near and far on Zoom, baking with my sisters, and the beauty of the countryside I live in, meant at the end of a day I always had a lot to choose from to tweet about. Our Lord’s goodness and generosity are infinite.
September saw my friends all return to school, while I remained at home with no online lessons — alone again. Now the risk for me wasn’t fear, but resentment. The gnawing, bitter feeling of missing out. As winter set in, it was easy to always be thinking about a time in the future when life would be more normal, when winter would turn to spring.
But I realized that to wish away the time we are in is to miss the value and lessons each season brings. Contentment lies in living in the moment we’re in, with our hearts open to our Lord, and with schedules stripped bare of extra activities and the time to travel to them there is more time to enjoy being together as a family: long walks, film nights and board games. Winter has a unique beauty of its own.
Whatever the lessons of your past year have been, we can all testify to the life giving, constant goodness of our Lord, who carries us through the hard times in His loving arms. Having experienced this in our youth we will be prepared for a life full of trust in our Savior. This is my prayer for us.
Your loving brother in Jesus,
JonathanRead more: 4 Ways to help children with anxiety