I was heartsick about the betrayal of our cherished democracy by the mob of insurrectionists who attacked our Capital on January 6, 2021. Was this a dark moment for our country? Let me quote a wonderful Chinese story with an answer to my own question: Maybe yes, maybe no. Because, in a crisis, an unrecognized problem rises to the surface, out of the murky depths, where we can see it and address it. This crisis can be an opportunity for a recommitment to the treasured values of our democracy.
The young poet, Amanda Gorman, who read her poem at the inauguration of our new president, referred to the power and energy of light. In “The Hill We Climb,” Amanda offers a wise observation. She says, “For there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
Amanda’s poem inspires me to realize that the first thing I can do for my country is to make sure that I am aware of the light within myself and share it with others. What do I mean by the light within? I mean being connected with a power that is greater than myself. You might call the relationship a form of prayer. Lately, I have been doing a short meditation. I breathe into my heart four or six times and exhale to the same count. I breathe in a feeling of love, gratitude, grace, or compassion for a couple of minutes. It is important to feel the emotion as I breathe in and out.
What can I do in my own sphere of influence to share my light? One way I share my light with others is through my delight in storytelling. Good stories are light spreaders.
Recently I had a doctor’s appointment, and when I arrived he was running a little late. Something came up during the appointment that reminded me of a story and I asked if I could tell it. Even though he was very busy, he said yes. So, I told this traditional story about the Chinese farmer:
Once there was a farmer in old China. One day a beautiful horse wandered into an enclosure near his house and stayed. His farmer neighbors said, “Farmer Wong, you are so fortunate. Look at your beautiful horse. Farmer Wong replied, Maybe yes, maybe no.
One day his strong and agile son was riding the horse. He rode like the wind. The horse was startled, bucked, and threw the young man off. The result was he broke his legs and his arms.
Farmer Wong’s neighbors said, “Oh Farmer Wong, you have bad luck.”
Farmer Wong answered, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”
Sometime later, some soldiers came to the farm. They were conscripting young men into the army. When they saw the son with his disabilities, they said he was ineligible.
Farmer Wong’s neighbors said, “Oh Farmer Wong, you have such good luck.”
Farmer Wong replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”
When I finished the story, the doctor and his nurse, who had listened attentively, thanked me, graciously, and let me know they appreciated my offering. They made time for my story during their busy day. By letting me tell my story, I felt honored by receiving the gift of the doctor’s precious time. Their light was shining by creating the space for me to tell my story. Their light generated more light. I felt uplifted and happy with their acknowledgment. Here was a living example of Amanda Gorman’s idea about being the light: “For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
The next day I was thinking about the generosity of the doctor and nurse in receiving my story when I visited my favorite organic food store, Nature’s Temptation. Now, I love their carrot souffle. When they have it, I always buy some and eat it with the rest of the lunch I have bought out in the safety of my car. Chef Liz eagerly greeted me when I walked by the deli. She told me she had made carrot souffle. But she wanted me to eat it in the store in the little area where people take their purchases to eat. She showed me the new heater they had installed, and she found me a safe table near the warmth and across from the air purifier. Chef Liz circled her arms making an imaginary dome above the table and told me she was creating a safe imaginary bubble around the table. Ordinarily, I would not have eaten here. She made sure I had a bowl of soup and told me to begin eating. She said she would bring me the warmed souffle. I could sense how much she wanted to take care of me. By the time I finished the soup, she brought me the heated carrot souffle. Later, she came back with a sample of warm pecan pie on a plate. So, when I accepted her graciousness, her kindness, I took in her light. More than just taking in her light, I rejoice in that light. I believe that in both giving out light and relishing receiving the light of others, I am adding to the light of the world and the world’s healing.
When I think of heartfelt pledges to preserve and protect our democracy, I think of our committing to the best of who we are. And, I think again of Amanda Gorman’s quote. “For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”