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!