As we approach the winter solstice in the Northern hemisphere, the days are getting shorter, the sun is making fewer appearances through the clouds, we spend more time inside, and life is just a bit darker. As sunlight gets scarcer, it is a great time to intentionally appreciate the limited light that we do have. Many cultures have holidays, such as Christmas, Diwali, Kwanza, and Chanukah that celebrate light. And even non-religious people will put up extra decorative lights to brighten the darker days. In our tradition of Buddhism, on December 8, we celebrate Bodhi day, as the day (2500 years ago) that Shakyamuni Buddha became “enLIGHTened,” breaking through the darkness of ignorance and understanding the true nature of reality.
So, as we approach these darker days, I think it’s a good time to notice and appreciate the light we see around us AND then find ways to share light with others. For inspiration, I wanted to share a (slightly edited) story that Georgette I. Magnin of the White River Temple shared with me a couple months ago:
I love Costco, not just because I live in the birthplace of this global chain. Costco #1 is in Seattle's industrial district. I shop there and at other nearby locations. It's a crossroads of all kinds of people. I really admire that their food offerings includes so many cultures. I got my moon festival cakes there.
I went today to a different Costco to pick up a pre-ordered sheet cake for my Temple. I like to park a little distance away from the entrance. More open spaces, less congestion, and the extra walk is a plus. This Costco has a sloping parking lot.
As I trudged up the slope, I saw a woman using one foot to keep her cart from rolling away, trying to load her car, and watch the infant in the cart seat. I stopped and asked if I could hold her cart so she could devote her attention to loading. She at first demurred but accepted my help. Being freed from minding the cart, she could move around to get her purchases stowed with less strain and stretching.
I told her why I stopped. It was because in her I could see what my parents did for my brother and me as we were growing up. I know, back then, my parents' efforts didn't occur to me. So I didn’t acknowledge them then. Since both my parents are late, I can't express my appreciation to them. Instead, I make an effort to notice parents or caregivers I happen to pass who might appreciate a little help, transforming my parent's past efforts into present-day acts of kindness.
It was nothing much: a few minutes time, passing groceries from cart to car, a little conversation. I know this incident made my day brighter. I hope the woman also got a boost.
In this story, notice how the appreciation for the light of caring that had been offered by Georgette’s own parents was the inspiration for Georgette offering support and compassion with this mother at Costco. One of the best ways to offer genuine help to others is by cultivating our own sense of appreciation for what we have received. Over the next few months, as the days get darker I encourage you to both look for the light you have received throughout your life and discover new and creative ways to share light with others.
Here is a little game you can play by yourself or with others to help you find some extra light in the darker days:
Rev. Anne Spencer