Darkness and light are not like pepper and salt.  Pepper and salt season food.  Using both makes food come alive.  But there’s no obligatory proportion or recipe for using these seasonings. Some like a combination or prefer one to the other. I am a pepper person myself, the more the better.  Add to that dill, onions and cabbage with a pinch of sugar and that is the beginning of a great dish. It may be my Eastern European roots showing – which is usually a good thing.  Cooks use pepper and salt according to taste.   Darkness and light are not merely seasonings to be treated as a matter of personal taste. 

The colours black and white are distinctly different, useful for contrast and interest.  Technically, one is the absorption of all light and one the reflection of all light. Still not the same as darkness and light, though one is dark and one is light.  Black and white together can be highly effective.  In music charts, the notes are in black and the paper is in white – increasing readability and clarity. When I paint, I use both to create tones and shades that help my canvas sing. Light mixed with or alongside darkness adds confusion not clarity.

A realist will tell you that darkness is a part of life. An optimist will tell you that light is possible and achievable. Hopefully both will admit that one requires wisdom to deal with darkness and bravery to bring light to life. 

Common sense tells us that playing sports at night is not in the best interest of personal safety.  I remember a late night spontaneous soccer game that required the headlights of several vehicles in order to ensure some semblance of safety for the participants.  Children still stepped in gopher holes but thankfully there were no ankles sprained.  Without those lights, it would have been foolish to continue to play. Walking in the dark is not fun unless it’s by romantic moonlight or the brilliance of a starry night. Darkness can be scary.  I have yet to find any redeeming qualities for being scared. Unless you have a migraine or you’re a bat, darkness is typically fraught with fear, avoided or a means of staying out of the light. The celebration of darkness is something that I have never understood nor wish to understand. That is the total opposite of light.

When there’s darkness outside, it’s tempting to sleep.  When there’s darkness inside, one either longs for light or wishes for more sleep.  Sleep can be a short-term strategy to get on the other side of something but it’s not a long-term solution for effectively increasing light in our communities.  

Early in the morning, every morning, I hear the blaring of music, so raucous and unsettling, that I am instantly annoyed.  Awake, for sure, but not happy about it.  However, being suddenly awake can be entirely necessary in order to get to get to life’s work or the work of life and light. 

Some topics are overwhelming causing feelings of loss, fear, frustration and outrage.  We wake up suddenly, asking copious amounts of questions, voicing them in prayers and conversations. The temptation is to spend too much time pondering and lamenting the darkness.  We find ourselves awake but we don’t know what to do about it.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary that we are awake.

Artistic types by nature feel things deeply but aren’t the only ones who do.  No one is immune to the perils of darkness and each person is equipped to do something to increase the light in their community. Avoidance of the darkness doesn’t solve anything nor does it inherently increase light.  The phrase “let sleeping dogs lie” doesn’t refer to avoiding being a part of justice. 

Rather than choosing reactivity, and parking ourselves on our proverbial soapboxes (mine is used regularly on topics involving laundry and leftovers in the fridge), it’s important to begin with thoroughly thinking things over, praying about them, considering all perspectives and attempting to use discernment before choosing an action. Sometimes we temporarily freeze, paralyzed by our emotions.  That’s normal.  We just can’t let ourselves stay there. Addressing darkness requires an investment and coordination of the heart, soul, mind, body and spirit in order to effectively make a difference. That and no small amount of courage.

If I take a flashlight with me, I can go on a walk in the dark.  Stepping out in darkness requires one to walk softly and carry a big flashlight.  It may be wise to walk with a friend who also has a flashlight.  Equally sensible is to avoid the urge to take your flashlight and run through every dark alley you can find.  There are some situations that need a helicopter spotlight and several other friends and their flashlights to dispel the darkness.

Longing for light is not a narcissistic venture nor an endless navel-gazing exercise of self-reflection.  It is not as if I am some girl sitting at home waiting for some guy to call me (not that that ever happened) or some worried woman wringing her hands in her rocking chair(not that that ever happens). Longing for light causes us to be outwardly mobile in ordinary ways that make extraordinary differences. This ache in my heart will, once directed properly, compel me to do whatever I can do in a way that is strong, compassionate and helpful.  How does one shine a light on injustice, show mercy, practice forgiveness, and be a part of healing in our society and our land?

Allow me to pitch the importance of singing wide-awake lullabies.  Not just a lullaby to help me sleep or a harsh alarm to jolt me awake, I need to choose to sing a wide-awake lullaby that awakens me to the day ahead and its possibilities. Just like a lullaby peacefully puts us to sleep, we can have a wide-awake lullaby that gently wakes us up to the joy of making a difference around us. If we woke up every morning with a song in our heart, a lullaby of wakefulness that propels us forward to combat darkness by shining light, what an adventure we’d be on!  We could make light in! (Not make light of or around or in the general vicinity of darkness.)

Educators often write curricular objectives that start with “I can” statements. These are objectives that children work toward with great determination and encouragement from their peers and leaders. The lyrics of the wide-awake lullaby my soul sings these days is comprised of these “I can” statements: 

  • I can sing songs to and for the broken. 
  • I can pray for justice. 
  • I can paint pictures of hope. 
  • I can write a blog about living well. 
  • I can live a life of light. 
  • I can sing wide-awake lullabies to encourage my community to shine light in the darkness. 
  • I can do my best to raise my children to stand strong for what’s right. 
  • I can find a unique way to support those in my community on the front lines. 

Do I have to know every eventuality or effect of my actions to feel like I’ve done my part?  Nope. I just need to know that I’ve done what I can when I can and where I can. 

When one chooses to live a life of light, it’s not that simple.  Complaining is easier and a lot less work. A long time ago, I chose to sing lyrics that were authentic and encouraged life. Peaceful songs that encourage, that direct toward and celebrate light without being disrespectful to suffering or sorrow.

How about you?  What wide-awake lullaby is your soul singing? What are your “I can statements”?  If you need one, here is one that I had posted in my classroom for years…my favourite “I can” statement by Helen Keller.

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do. 

May you long for light and be a part of bringing more of it to your community by doing the something you can do as the unique you.

(c) Sandra Foster, Ranenpur, October 31, 2014

Have you seen someone shine a light in your community? Give a glowing recommendation!

Are you wide-awake? I am. Have you heard a wide-awake lullaby lately? I have.  Allow me to sing the praises of The Zebra Centre, an amazing group of professionals whose “I can” statements include “I can make a difference in the lives of children who have suffered abuse.  

The Zebra Centre works to improve the life experiences of children who have suffered abuse by bringing together a multi-disciplinary team of caring professionals – child protection investigators, police officers, prosecutors, donors and volunteers – to an environment that protects the child and uses all their collaborative wisdom to lend strength, creating this place where ‘kids can tell’.www.zebracentre.ca