The Common Good

Be a Light

Light is important to us. Those of us who live in the Midwest are reminded of how much we need it during this time of year. The sun sets early. On so many days, our sunlight is tinged with gray as it seeps through the clouds.

Lighting display, Champiofoto /
Lighting display, Champiofoto /

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Light seems to be in short supply.

All of the festive holiday Christmas lights have been put away, leaving the darkness unchecked. We recently had religious celebrations that involved lighting candles on our menorahs, on our advent wreaths and our dinner tables. Many people celebrated the birth of a Jewish rabbi who urges everyone to be a light to the world.

Don’t wait for someone else to bring the light. Be the light.

It’s a challenge that we spend a lifetime answering. Do we make our lives primarily about ourselves? Or do we focus more on making life better for others and changing our world in some important ways?

Do we deepen the darkness, or do we shine a light into it?

Be a light.

Do the little things that make us shine on, to borrow one of John Lennon’s phrases. Smile at a stranger. Be kind toward whomever you meet. Roll down your car window and offer help to the needy person by the side of the road.

Or, borrowing from Francis of Assisi: Show those who hate what it’s like to love. Heal injury with pardon. Encourage those who are doubting themselves so that their faith will be restored. Bring hope to those who are feeling despair, joy to those who are feeling sad.

To those who feel darkness, bring some light.

Be a light.

It can be a daunting challenge sometimes. But remember that all it takes is one small, fixed light in the sky to give sailors a reference point to navigate the dangerous seas and get safely back to port. One small point of light can make all the difference for someone.

Be that small point of light.

Keep in mind that light doesn’t control or judge; it illuminates. And that’s enough. The beams from a lighthouse allow the ship’s captain to see the shoreline. Some ships will still run aground, even with the light. Others will take advantage of the light and avoid getting grounded. And they will be thankful for the light.

Be a light.

Also, be mindful that there are many people who hate light. Some people try to sleepwalk through their lives, so light isn’t welcomed. Others embrace darkness because it provides cover for them to promote themselves and take advantage of others. They try to extinguish the light and make the world a dark place.

Be a light.

Often, it’s unpopular. At times you feel like a flickering flame, struggling to survive the breath that is trying to extinguish you. In those times, it takes determination and courage to shine on.

Find the courage. Be a light.

One of my favorite passages from Genesis is the poetic story of creation. It imagines a scene where God says “Let there be light,“ and light enters into creation and changes it. This business of bringing light to the world goes on today. It goes on with you and me.

The world needs an infusion of light.

Be a light.

Joe Kay is a professional writer living in the Midwest.

Image: Lighting display, Champiofoto /

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