“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.”–Ben Sweetland
“Be the reason someone smiles. Be the reason someone feels loved and believes in the goodness in people.”–Roy T. Bennett
It took a moment to register. How long it took, I am unsure. I suspect it was a gradual awareness, albeit, a confused recognition clouded by sleep.
Light. Why was it so bright? Who turned the light on? What is going on? Where is the light coming from? I gradually forced my eyelids slightly apart. The source of the cheerful brightness seemed to be coming from my right. I closed my eyes again. Tried to drift back into that blissful blanket of sleep, but the radiance would not be ignored.
Gradually, another modest moment of awareness, pried my resistant eyes marginally apart. Turning to the right with heavy-headed effort, I blinked back the boldness of the intruder to realize it was nearly a full moon. Bathing the bedroom with its silvery, bold shine, alertness remained with me long enough to take in the preciseness with which its light penetrated the darkness, chasing away the shadows. As sleep drew me back into her comforting arms, I sensed my mind nudging me to recognize the moonlit depiction was important.
Upon waking, the image of the nocturnal illumination continued to gnaw at the edges of my brain as I made my way through my morning rituals. Coffee in hand, I sat down with my laptop, shivering off the morning chill, and clicked open a document titled, “Writing ideas.” Reading through the snippets of phrases, I mentally touched each one as if I were a child walking down the plush animal aisle at a toy store. Metaphorically, I gave a squeeze here, a rub there, a brushing back and forth of the velveteen on another. Then, I read two quotes, and I knew their words were working together with the middle of the night spotlight to offer me a lesson that needed written.
The day of the moonlight wake-up call was also the same date for the March run/walk of the Ashland, KY wear blue: run to remember community, held the first Saturday of each month at 8:00 am in Central Park. For months, I had not been able to participate in this worthy cause due to other commitments, so I was grateful for the opportunity to once more have the time to support this group. This local chapter is part of a national nonprofit that, according to their website, “honors the service and sacrifice of the American military . . . creating a living memorial, ‘For the fallen. ‘For the fighting,’ and ‘For the families.’”.
As we circled up to read the names of 24 soldiers who had made the ultimate sacrifice on this same weekend date since 2000, I shivered. Yes, it was a reaction to the 30 degree temperatures, but it was also a visceral sensation upon hearing and reading the names of men and women, who, if still alive, would most likely be younger than me and are now absent from the lives of countless moms, wives, daughters, sisters, and other family members. Shuttering as I read the names I was given, I wondered if they knew we still remembered them. I further pondered what their families would think if they knew we honored their loved one by name . . .
With those names etched in our hearts and before setting off, each person in our small group encouraged one another to reach their personal goal for the day. Throughout the three laps, runners and walkers alike, continued to uplift one another. In fact, even local bystanders, out for their own morning exercise, also volunteered smiles, kind words, and even a joke or two . . .
“You better run harder, she might catch you.”
“Keep it up.”
“I see you’re still at it. That’s the way.”
“We’ve almost got this.”
While the words, in and of themselves, were nothing special. It was the way in which they were spoken and the smile that was proffered with each audible emission that made a positive impact. I felt heartened and part of something greater than myself as I thought of those names.
Driving to Ashland, I was full of doubt, self-deprecating thoughts, and mentally listing every reason why I should not and would not be able to complete the three laps around the park. How could my small effort even compare to the sacrifice of the men and women whose lives we were honoring. However, once there, I felt a small flicker; and though that spark was not big enough to completely rid my brain of self-doubt, those motivating smiles, words, and most of all, the names of those fallen men and women, brightened the path helping to overcome the shadows of self-defeating thought.
To come full circle in conclusion . . .
I now understand that my mind used the image of the bold moonlight to serve as a reminder of the need to offer light to others. May we shine through with our thoughts, words, and actions. May we overlook the ugliness that all too often permeates our own thoughts, vies for our attention in the media, and sometimes fills our conversations. Instead, may our smiles be given freely. May we believe in the innate goodness of humanity. May we offer love, gentleness, and kindness to all with whom we come into contact– even to those who seem the most unlovable.
And, finally, Dear God, may I continue to grow and learn, so that one day, perhaps, I, too, might light the way for another fellow traveler struggling in the darkness.