Burlington Festival of Lights and 'The Way to Love Anything'.....
The season is upon us once more. That time of year when many hearts fill with compassion, generosity and love. Those who have much reach out to those who have little, or at least some do.
At no time greater than now is the gulf between wealth and poverty, love and hate, happiness and sorrow more evident. It is a season where a strange light is cast for us all to see, if we only dare to look.
This is a post about the Burlington Festival of Lights, but more importantly, it is a post about what those lights stand for.
The past 3 years have been very hard for me. I came very close to the possibility of losing four of my family members.
Through a series of miracles, outside intervention, family support, healthcare, hope , love and belief, they all recovered and are here today shining their lights brighter than ever.
They have not only been given a new lease on life themselves, they have given new eyes to those around who love them.
I loved them before, I love them now with an even greater tenderness and appreciation for who they are. Their inner beauty has transcended outwards and I find that even their smiles now glow in a way they didn't before.
When we come close to losing someone, we are suddenly and painfully reminded of the fragility of life, of the fragility of the people around us, of how easily and quickly it can all be lost, they can be lost.
Life hangs on a thread. It waves gently in a fickle breeze and often when we try to grab the end and swing out into the clear fine air along with it, we miss and fall to a hard landing.
If we are lucky, we stand up once we catch our breath and, dusting ourselves off, we climb the tree again vowing that this time we won’t let go of our toehold on the branch until we have a firm grip on the frayed end of the thread we are trying to grasp.
There is always another ‘this time’; or is there?
A person can be taken from you in an instant.
One day you are sitting across from them sharing a fine meal and discussing the day's events, the next day their seat at the table is empty. They will never sit there again.
And you never saw it coming.
How precious is this very moment you have right now?
How precious is the person sitting next to you that you have the ability to share and connect with?
How precious is it that you have the technology close at hand to be able to reach out to anyone, absolutely anyone and say ‘I love you’ and you are important in my life. ? How much do we take for granted these things?
I remember long ago visiting my youngest brother, a true philosopher in his own right, and sleeping on the pull-out in his den.
As I gazed around the room at the myriad of inspirational photographs with sayings written on them, one that caused me to rethink everything in my life from that moment on, was this :
'You don’t ‘have’ to do anything, you ‘get’ to do it.'
Suddenly I found myself applying that principle to everything I ‘had' to do.
I no longer saw it as something I ‘had’ to do.
Instead I began to see everything, absolutely everything as a gift and something I ‘get to do because I am here, because I am alive, because I am connected with the world around me, because I matter!
Every single thing I do is a gift. Think of that concept!
It is not a new one. Old-timers have a saying and a belief that having ‘work’ to do is having a gift. As long as you have a purpose, or feel you are contributing, life will have value to you.
This is one of the main reasons that the elderly deteriorate so quickly once they are put out to pasture in senior’s homes. They no longer feel that they matter, that they are contributing, that who they are is of importance here.
In Okinawa, an island off the coast of Japan, the world's longest living people are found. What is one of the main secrets to their longevity?
They are valued and are never put out to pasture. They maintain their jobs and dignity as useful members of society for as long as they wish to and as long as they are able to. They are revered by the younger generations as valuable teachers and are truly listened to and respected.
What has happened here in western society? Why do we not place this same importance on our elderly ? Why are we not taking advantage of this most amazing and important legacy and resource we have living right in our midst, the wisdom of our elders?
They are gone so quickly.
One day we may be sifting through old photos or genealogy files and stop with an ache in our hearts as we regretfully realize we never got around to taking the time to really know that person who was an important part of our legacy and of our children’s future.
They had so much to say, and no one took the time to ask them what it was.
I apply this to the younger people around myself too. As I think of my children, I realize I have not spent enough time determining the answers to so many questions.
Who are they?
Beyond their clothes and their friends and their hobbies, who are they? Do we ever take the time to really find out?
Do we know what their favourite colour is and why ? This alone can tell you an amazing amount about a person. Have we asked them what they think life is all about? Or what their dreams and aspirations are?
What they truly would love to do with their lives?
Have we asked our brothers, our sisters, our closest friends ?
They can be gone in an instant.
Seize the moment and gather in the pieces of those in your life that matter to you.
By doing so you will find that not only will you be adding immensely to their self-esteem and feelings of well-being, you will also be enriching your own soul immensely.
Ask any centenarian; they’ll be glad to talk to you about the real meaning of life and the secret to a long and happy one.
G. K. Chesterton said it best when he said “The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost”.
This year, when going about your holiday shopping and merry-making, stop and consider those words. Consider how we each have the ability to live them day to day, not just at Christmas when the essence of love seems so strong around us, but always.
The Festival of Lights in Burlington will start at 5pm at Spencer Smith Park on Sunday, December 6th. The festival will run for 40 days and the Tree of Hope will hold 3,950 tiny sparkling lights.
This year, as you watch the ceremony and witness the lighting of the tree, think on what the tree stands for and what each tiny light signifies. Carry this forward with you, for not only the 40 days of the festival, but every day of this coming year and beyond.
The difference in the world begins as an almost imperceptible difference in our hearts and grows outwards from there.
You'll never know, but it will be there. Just believe.