ON BEING A LIGHTHOUSE, A STREET LAMP, A CANDLE IN THE NIGHT
June 28, 2015
“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” – Anne Lamott –
I read this quote this morning, and the following commentary: “So, you want to save the world but don’t know what to do or whom to serve or where to start? Breathe deeply. Feel your own vitality. Connect with the essence of who you are, what you love, what has broken your heart open, and what gives you strength. Be fully who you are–no resistance, no shame, no blame–and shine.”
Doing Restorative Circles with juvenile offenders is heart-breaking and joyous work. Once a young girl who found our Circle to be the first safe haven she’d known in a long time, began to crack open the hard veneer she hid inside and share her stories, her fears, her dreams. One night after an especially intense Circle, I went on a long walk along the Lakewalk. My heart was heavy with the weight of a burden I had no way to resolve. I knew that this girl, as well as most of the young people who came to our Circles, had to return to homes and classrooms that would be unchanged, even while they struggled to change themselves in the midst of these environments that had tangled up their lives in the first place.
The Lakewalk cut through a park, and as I passed beneath a streetlamp, the light went out. Strange. As I moved across the dark path toward the next pool of light, the streetlamp behind me blinked back on. As I approached the next streetlamp, it happened again. Very strange indeed; was there a lesson here? Heading toward the next streetlamp, it remained on and I came into the pool of light, passed through it, back into the darkness, heading toward the next pool of light up ahead. And so I moved through the park, light by light.
I looked back at the streetlamps winding along the pathway through the park. I realized that I, and others like me, were like these lights in the darkness of the lives of the young people we worked with. Each one of us providing a pool of light, of safety, of comfort for as long as that young person was in our care, or our classroom, or our program, or our home. And then, they had to make their own way again. But I saw that there would be other lights along their path. It wasn’t up to me to provide light all the way down their road to the end. It was only my job to make sure my light was shining in my own little space.
The world gets changed one person at a time. The Darkness is vanquished one light at a time. No, lighhouses don’t run around looking for boats to save. They simply stand there–shining. It is enough.