An old Chinese curse supposedly translates as, “May you live in interesting times.” (An even better curse is, “May you come to the attention of those in authority.” Oooh, chills.)

It’s been depressing to hear the dire news springing from every side. A rash of shootings around the country. Obama firing the CEO of a private (ahem) company. Fidel Castro offering to “help” our current administration. Trillions more dollars being pledged worldwide to help tanking economies (like that will work, right?). This doesn’t even begin to address the moral decrepitude hitting this country (an out-of-wedlock birthrate of 40 percent!). And now our president is calling for a “stronger global regime” (world government, anyone?).

But a few weeks ago I had an experience that resulted in an unexpected side effect: It filled me with hope. I attended a homeschooling conference.

Before any of you groan and say, “On no, not homeschooling again!” – hear me out, because this isn’t necessarily about homeschooling per se.

This week we celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Someone who was ritualistically murdered almost 2,000 years ago. That incidence, more than any other in history, continues to give Hope and keeps us from sinking into profound misery over the direction our country is heading.

But despite the renewal of faith Easter gives, it’s still too easy to get overwhelmed with the woes and cares of our current “interesting times.”

That’s why attending the homeschooling conference filled me with hope – hope of a different kind. After talking with countless participants and listening to the keynote speaker, I came away with a great deal more optimism than when I went in.

This group of 400 people represents a renewal of faith in the founding principles of our country. They embody the concepts of independence and self-sufficiency on which our nation was built. It was heartening to be among so many like-minded people at once.

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I interviewed a lot of folks at this conference. I met drywall contractors, produce managers, doctors, public school teachers (no kidding), software support technicians, grocers, postal workers and IT tech managers. I saw hundreds of kids. I saw children of every color of the rainbow, many clearly adopted. I saw a large number of kids with Down syndrome, a phenomenon that puzzled me until I realized – duh – that here was a segment of the population with the strength and integrity not to abort a “flawed” baby. I was particularly touched by the love expressed for these special kids.

I didn’t see a single child of any age with a low-cut blouse, crack-revealing pants, tattoos, piercings, or a foul mouth. Instead I saw older siblings playing with younger siblings. I saw a lot of kids with books sitting patiently through lengthy lectures and seminars. I heard a musical exhibition by an astoundingly talented family who filled the hall with a selection of jazz, bluegrass and hymns.

I met people whose older kids were lawyers, soldiers, wildlife biologists, foresters, or in college. In many cases, the parents proudly told me how their child had the highest scores on entry exams.

I saw a lot of stuff that made me realize homeschoolers are going a long way toward maintaining the strength of our country. They are a group of people who, in the words of keynote speaker Rick Boyer, are “taking back what was ours, namely our heritage of constitutional liberties and government restrictions.”

To everyone I interviewed, I posed one consistent question: What scares you? What are you afraid of? Every single person answered with a variation on a single theme. It wasn’t our economic freefall that scared people. It wasn’t terrorism. It wasn’t socialized medicine or the banking crises or the deepening recession/depression. And it most certainly wasn’t their children’s self-esteem or worries about global warming.

It was the loss of our constitutionally protected liberties.

Every person I spoke to had an amazingly sound grasp of American history and the governmental limitations outlined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. And it was this that represented the greatest fear these parents have – that the guarantees of our liberties will shortly be no more.

So, recognizing the danger to these liberties, the parents are practicing a blend of tactics ranging from political activism to hunkering down. They quietly go about their business, educating their children as they see fit and giving up many tangible benefits (such as a second income) in order to stay true to their beliefs.

So how did these people restore my hope?

Well, first of all, it was a novel experience to be among such a concentration of individuals who were students of history and could plainly see the handwriting on the wall. Here was a subset of the population disinclined to listen to, and fall for, the media fawning of the current administration. And here were people who, when push comes to shove, are more than willing to push and shove back. Neat.

Secondly, it was just plain wonderful to be around a large group of children who, despite acting like children, were polite, enthusiastic, happy, loved, well-educated and obviously well-adjusted. You can call these families throwbacks if you like. But what are they throwbacks to? A better time, a time when folks stayed together and morals and manners were taught.

So, when you’re inclined to feel hopeless about the state of affairs in this country … when you’re feeling depressed that nothing you do or say can change the course of the “interesting times” we’re witnessing … remember these humble heroes of the homeschooling movement. Remember these plain modest folks who, when the dust has cleared and our country is in ruins, will rise up and quietly continue to nurture and educate their children in the best way they know how. They will give us the leaders of our future, and those leaders will not betray us like our leaders have done in the past. And the present.

I don’t know about you, but that’s an earthly hope I can live with.

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