Let there be Light.
Eight of my last 18 professional years have been an adventure with children and adults from all over the world. They brought with them endless gifts of their cultures, and I gave them the English words to express their beliefs, hopes, and dreams. My students have come from Brazil, China, Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Senegal, Spain, Thailand, Vietnam, among other countries. The secret is that we have taught one another more about Life than any English lesson could encompass. Mutual respect for ideas and differences, along with acceptance, has always been our agreed cornerstone of the classroom.
The challenge as a teacher at this time of year is trying to weave together every culture’s celebration, which all float around the Winter Solstice. How do we explain in simple words, beliefs, religion, and celebration from each corner of the globe? The answer: Seek the Light. I ask my students to share how Light factors into their celebrations at this sacred time of year. So with both excitement and reverence, my students teach each other and me about Diwali, and Hanukkah, which are both called Festivals of Light. They are happy to tell about the illuminating floating boats of Loy Krathong in Thailand, the Chinese New Year Fireworks, the Colored Lights of the Tet Holiday, the Little Day of Candles in Colombia, and varying Christmas Light traditions in Europe and South America.
The lesson then is that we all Seek the Light in the darkest point of the year, the Winter Solstice. But it has to be about more than just culture and religion, doesn’t it? It has to be more about our human spirit. One of my new heroes, Malala Yousafzai, taught us this year that, “We realize the importance of Light when we see darkness.” The Buddha taught that, “If you light a lamp for someone else, it will brighten your path.” We seek the Light of others often when our own lives are darkest, when we have no answers, and when we need warmth. We seek out their Light when we need inspiration.
Inspire means, “to breathe in.” Whose Light causes YOU to breathe in?? Whose Light fills your darkness? Most often the Light we need comes from those with whom we share our home. But who else floats into our lives and brings us warmth, new hope, and joy? Who else Lights our way? How can we thank them? How can we fan their flames so they continue to shine? Find a way to reflect their Light. Find a way to express gratitude for their illumination. You will see that the Light will get bigger. The flames will be grander. Find a way to celebrate those who bring the Light, for their flames ignite the Good.