My father in law gave me a bookmark which I have in my top left desk drawer. Yes, I know that it should be in a book somewhere, especially because I am still a hundred pages from the end of Cloud Atlas.
But I always worried that I would lose this bookmark. It’s metal with a curl at the top edge to hook it onto the pages where I am reading. It would be the perfect bookmark if I wasn’t so clumsy, so unlucky. And I really am clumsy and unlucky.
Engraved into the bookmark is a quote from St. Francis of Assisi: “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”
I once thought I had lost the bookmark and, in my desperation, immediately went to Barnes and Noble to buy another one. Of course, when I spent a few moments in a state of calm, I found the original bookmark. That’s okay…now I have an extra reminder of what goodness can be.
I am currently watching Forrest Gump with my family; we are at the part of the attack in Vietnam when (SPOILERS!) Bubba dies and Lt. Dan loses his legs. When I was researching the quote from St. Francis, I accidentally went to the BBC website where I learned about a terror attack in Istanbul.
We live in a world surrounded by evil. Only recently have I noticed that the flags are no longer flying at half-staff following the massacre in Orlando, Florida. In the morning, I turn on the news and it’s an inundation of information about the most recent homicides, kidnappings. The most recent attacks by the politicians on their opposition. A former student posted about hearing an article/debate/report about injustice in the world against African-American men. I am so sheltered, so naive that I didn’t realize that this social injustice really exists. I thought in-equal rights was a thing of the past. I am truly informed. And I’m saddened by it.
Although I do not consider the flooding in West Virginia to be an indication of the evil that does live in the world, I still pause every time I look at information about it. Pat’s and my mountain (all right, 2o acres of a mountain) is in Clay County, a location that was decimated by the flooding.
Everywhere, death. Destruction. Pain. Sadness. It’s enough to conquer one’s soul, to destroy one’s sense of being.
And then, just as I feel like I could surrender to the hopelessness that I do see in the world, simple actions, simple acts of kindness happen.
The world really isn’t evil. Yes, evil happens. But I refuse to submit to the darkness that exists around me.
This last year, I had a student, Joey, who was going through some very rough times. And I gave him a pair of candlesticks that were made from olive wood from Israel (either Jerusalem or Bethlehem). And I wrote him a letter in which I quoted St. Francis of Assisi. Joey is one of those individuals who brings light to the world. He is a man of compassion, of care and love for others. He has created his own non-profit to raise money and awareness for mitochondrial disease. He dedicates his life, skills, and time to improve the lives of others.
You see, that is what I mean about how light can not be extinguished. No matter the darkness that pulsates and ekes out of every potential nuance, the single light of goodness can defeat the cruelty that does exist.
My (across the cul-de-sac) neighbors have five children. One child is their biological child. The other four are foster. They have literally opened their doors to help others without thought of themselves. And I feel so feeble in my attempts to help others when I live across the street from some of the most giving people on the Earth.
But wait, my neighbors who live right next door to me….they give without thought of themselves. Pat’s car had a flat tire. He was outside with the Boy, working on changing the tire. And our neighbor came over and asked Pat about the tire’s size so that he could help with replacing the tire. Free of charge. This same neighbor lent me his truck so I could deliver a mattress that his family owned to my best friend so that her foster son would have a bed.
I live in a circle of kindness and this kindness doesn’t stop here. I am a witness to continual giving and continual compassion. In response to the devastation in West Virginia, my school’s show choir is donating the usage of its tractor trailer. They are asking the local community to fill it with baby food, canned/dry food, clothing, cleaning supplies…
The world is an ever opening lotus blossom. Each petal can represent an act of kindness as it (the petal) shelters the precious center. And I am a blessed and fortunate woman who stands on the edge and sees the white, luster of the blossom and can see that in spite of the muddy water that surrounds it, goodness thrives.
Even in the muddy water, goodness lives. Everything nourishes something else. And the world will continue to spin. And I will stand here, in my corner, and I will celebrate the goodness. And I will fight the darkness. Even if I hold a feeble, flickering candle. I am there.
Join me my brothers and sisters. We are stronger than this.