Last night we all watched until our eyes could no longer stay open. Early mornings and a daylight savings hangover forced my boys’ eyes shut before the real numbers were in. They woke up eagerly wanting to know who had won the presidency and I glumly told them that Donald Trump had been declared the winner. They were incredulous, incessant about how and why. I didn’t have an explanation, at least not a good one. I needed some time to process, to think, to reflect before I helped them make sense of their world.

I have been turning it over all day, but I think that tonight, this is what I will tell my boys.

  1. Donald Trump won because oftentimes in life selfishness, unkindness, and intimidation win. It’s hard to say this to you, but it is the truth. There is a good chance that the girl you like will have a crush on a jerky jock who says demeaning things about her body or the way she looks, and she will still like him. I can almost guarantee that the queen bee of your school will be someone who excludes and gossips and that Mr. Popular will roll around in an expensive car and top of the line shoes and have little time for anyone but his crew.

As you get older you will find that there are plenty of dishonest, wealthy people and that the ruthless rise quickly. You will see that fame is easier to find when morals are abandoned and that high social rank comes most easily to those who tout exclusivity. There are always exceptions to these rules and people who buck the system, but for the most part, this is life.

What you must know, though is that you can choose your story.  You can choose kindness and honesty. You can choose respect and love. You can be the type of person that does the right thing for the right reasons. It may not bring fame, fortune, or popularity (or it might), but it will bring peace and joy. You might never stand before an adoring crowd, but when you kneel at night you will know you are right with yourself, right with those you love, and right with God. In the end, that is really all that matters.

2. Don’t let people feel forgotten. Any time a person or group is marginalized, when they think people don’t care about them, their opinions, or their situations, it makes them angry. This happens with kids who are bullied at school and end up lashing out in violent ways and it happens in our country. Do what you can, on an individual level to let people know that they are cared about and loved. Look for commonalities and ways to unite those you associate with. Help people appreciate differences and see them as strengths instead of threats. Our country can do so much better. For so long we have pitted one group against another and the end result has been a level of hate that we haven’t seen in ages. Bring people together, by the way you speak, by the way you act and by the way you see the world. This change can start with you.

3. The America you have seen over this past year on the television is not the America you know. Your America is a place where men and women, boys and girls are treated equally; where neighbors of all shapes, sizes and colors, clean up together after a wind storm. Your America is a place where there are endless opportunities and enough of everything to go around. Your America is a place where teachers stay after school to help struggling students and Sunday School leaders take you on camp outs. Your America is a place where we collect food and clothing for new refugee families and spend countless hours trying our best to be our brother’s keeper. Do not let one election cycle convince you of anything different. Work every day to make your America everyone’s America.

4.And finally, I want you to have hope. In Donald Trump’s acceptance speech, he said:

Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division. To all Republicans, Democrats, and Independents across the nation, it is time for us to come together as one united people. It’s time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be President for all Americans. I am reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so we can work together and unify our great country.

I am choosing to have hope that he means what he says here. That perhaps much of what we have seen has been a show. I believe that people can change and I am willing to forgive. I hope we watch him rise to the occasion and mantle that he will carry in three short months and that when the reality of his new position and power settles in, perspective and understanding will soften his edges and in some instances, change his heart. I pray that he will surround himself with experienced, intelligent people who can curb his pride and guide him through difficult times. I have faith in our system of checks and balances and I believe in the spirit of this great country and the people whose shoulders it stands on.

And so, my little and not so little boys, we will not be moving to Canada ;). Instead, we will stay right where we are and work in our tiny corner of this world to be the change we want to see. We will love more and fight less. We will look for the good. We will share differences of opinion in civil ways and try to our best to walk in someone else’s shoes. We will give to good causes and serve with our hands and our hearts. WE will make America great again.