Amid a country-wide quarantine in Italy, a beautiful voice sings out into the empty streets, only to be joined by more voices, until their chorus warms the entire world. Enjoy this reminder that, even as we struggle. we belong to each other.
In every darkness, a bit of light will shine to light your way. It may be in the acts of kindness and generosity you see, in words of wisdom you remember and hold close to your heart, or memories of past struggles that you have gotten through to the other side. We draw strength and courage from each other, working together. That community will sustain us.
In his book, Healing the Divide, editor James Crews collects poem of kindness and compassion. Here is one by Danusha Laméris for you to carry with you today:
“I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs to let you by. Or how strangers still say ‘bless you’ when someone sneezes, a leftover from the Bubonic plague. ‘Don’t die,’ we are saying. And sometimes, when you spill lemons from your grocery bag, someone else will help you pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other. We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot, and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder, and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass. We have so little of each other, now. So far from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange. What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these fleeting temples we make together when we say, ‘Here have my seat,’ ‘Go ahead—you first,’ ‘I like your hat.’”
We will get through this present darkness. Hold tight to the little kindnesses, savor them, and spread them where you can to light the way for those behind you.
For more, a reminder that we were made for times like these.
What do you think heaven looks like? Certainly, if we can see there, it is a place of great beauty and marvelous complexity where we marvel at God’s creation. If we can hear there, music that stirs the soul must be the score. And so on through our senses
But what if we are not corporeal in heaven and don’t have senses per se? What then? Perhaps it is a place of harmony, of communion, with everyone different but united in common purpose.
These are good things, yes? Appreciating beauty in God’s creation, enjoying music that stirs the soul, being so present in our bodies that we marvel at its systems? And, of course, communion, harmony, peace? These are good things.
Perhaps, today, we can take time to bring a bit of heaven to earth. Pause to admire the beauty around us, savor, marvel, be astonished. And then with our senses full and renewed, have courage to bring peace and harmony to our day.
Sometimes life is hard. Really hard. Relationships falter. Obstacles seem insurmountable. And just getting to the next day feels overwhelming. At times like these, we have to remember that it is OK to struggle.
We don’t have to be perfect. We do not need to have all the answers. Sometimes all we have are questions. But that is often a good place to start. And then we begin again, one foot in front of the other, perhaps not seeing the whole path ahead, but just enough to know where to put each foot.
“Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Uncomfortable? Yes. Exhausting and overwhelming and painfully hard? Yes. But not impossible. And it won’t necessarily feel this difficult and debilitating forever. You’ve made it through similar hard things before. You’ve survived every single bad day and every obstacle the universe has ever thrown at you. You’ve survived all the things you felt convinced would break you. Every single one. And this is evidence that you can make it through this too.
“You don’t have to figure everything out today. You don’t have to solve your whole life tonight. And you don’t have to tackle everything at once. You just have to show up and try. You just have to focus on the most immediate thing in front of you. And you have to trust that you’ll figure out the rest along the way. It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. And its okay to make mistakes. You’re still learning how to navigate this new path. It’s going to take time, and you’re allowed to give yourself that time. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to get all A’s or be the best version of yourself or outperform everyone else. All you have to do is show up and try. It’s always been enough before. It will be enough this time too.”
— Daniell Koepke
Here’s to you finding the light to take that next step, and then the next and the next, until your path leads you out of this present darkness. It is OK to struggle.
Sometimes, when we feel down, we need to evaluate the input coming into our lives. Are we steeped in negativity? Maybe not just news, but the vitriol that follows it in the comments? The political back and forth can get ugly and pull us down. And then we can think about the friends we surround ourselves with. Are they upbeat, trying to make things better, or always complaining?
And, while we don’t want to retreat from fighting the good fight or the friends who are going through a rough patch, it’s so easy for people to tear things down, to find the flaws, to make a conflict, and, when we are around that kind of energy constantly, we can feel beaten down.
But, there is good news to be had, and there are positive people and opportunities to be found. Sometimes we need to focus our attention there, if only for a break from the storm.
Miep Gies was a young office worker when she hid and supported Anne Frank and her family, protecting them from Nazis and the danger of being sent to a concentration camp. After Anne and her family were betrayed and captured, Miep collected Anne’s diaries and eventually returned them to Anne’s father, Otto, who survived the war. That diary has been read by millions of people now, inspiring acts of heroism and showing, in a very intimate way, the horror of WWII as viewed through the eyes of an innocent, complex, lovely, vibrant girl, Anne.
Miep wasn’t famous or rich or particularly accomplished, yet she managed through her actions to shine a very bright light on hate and replace it with a more powerful portrait of love. Anne, too, wasn’t famous or rich or accomplished, although we can see now how she was a gifted author, but her words have been inspiring and a powerful force against evil in the world.
No matter our position or age or wealth or gender, we each can make a contribution that makes the world more bright.
What is the light you can turn on in a dark room?
Hurricane Harvey has been devastating, and the images showing those hardest hit have been heart-wrenching and dark. But sometimes, in those images, we glimpse the light. Consider this video of a man stopping to play his piano even as the water has nearly reached his piano bench. He brings a bit of beauty, peace, and light to a ravaged reality.
This video calls to mind the orchestra members on the Titanic who, forced with the certainty of imminent death, chose to play until the end so the music would bring comfort and peace to those also remaining on the ship as well as those struggling to reach the life boats:
Many brave things were done that night, but none were more brave than those done by men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea. The music they played served alike as their own immortal requiem and their right to be recalled on the scrolls of undying fame.
Or perhaps it recalls the story of Vedran Smailovic who played his cello, in full dress attire, even as Sarajevo was being bombed around him:
As the 155-millimeter howitzer shells whistled down on this crumbling city today, exploding thunderously into buildings all around, a disheveled, stubble-bearded man in formal evening attire unfolded a plastic chair in the middle of Vase Miskina Street. He lifted his cello from its case and began playing Albinoni’s Adagio.
Smailovic did not consider himself a hero: “I am nothing special, I am a musician, I am part of the town. Like everyone else, I do what I can.”
But a hero he was. Adding light and beauty into a dark and dire situation is heroic. It’s counter-culture. It’s inspiring. And it makes the world a brighter place.
How can you create light in your circumstances today?
Have you ever heard of Sybil Ludington?
How about Paul Revere?
In 1777, 16 year-old Sybil rode 40 miles (twice the distance of Revere’s ride) through the raining night to warn the Colonial militia of the advancing British army. She was thanked personally by George Washington for her service and bravery and yet few now know her name.
What’s most important in a war, of course, is who wins, and battlefields are littered with fallen soldiers, some remembered, most forgotten. Behind the scenes are countless more. Some heroic, some cowardly. Some remembered, most forgotten.
Fame is ephemeral. It doesn’t attach itself only to heroes or the deserving. If you chase it, you may well find yourself doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons. And, even then, if you do the things that you think will make you famous, fame could well elude you.
Character, on the other hand, is everything. Doing the right thing regardless of whether you will be remembered for it or get credit always wins. Again, your actions may go unnoticed or unappreciated, but that doesn’t change the inquiry. Doing the right thing is its own reward.
What is the right thing in these morally ambiguous and complicated times? Faith, hope, and love remain. And the greatest is love.
Do the loving thing. Spread light, not darkness. Work for peace, not division. Let your words and actions be gentle and true.
Love each other.
You were born to be a blessing to others. To shine your light where there is dark. To sing songs of praise. To give of yourself without holding back.
That’s kind of out there, isn’t it? Scary. Who are you to be shining a light in the dark places of the world, after all?
Marianne Williamson answers this question brilliantly:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Shine, Baby, Shine!