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In the Light of Others

Recently my church lost its beloved pianist, Jack Kennedy. He was one the most talented gentle spirits I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. Before his death, I don’t remember a Sunday that he was not there, sharing his gift of music with all of us, seeking no notice or praise, pouring himself onto the keys.

At his memorial service, a woman stood up and shared her regret that she had never told him how much she appreciated him. A sick feeling crawled up into my throat. I had a darker confession to make to myself. I had never even realized how much I had appreciated him.

The notes he gently played during meditation time carried me away to a calmer place. The music he and the band played every Sunday often formed chill bumps on my skin, brought tears to the surface, and filled my heart with such hope and gratitude. How could I not realize all he’d added to my life? Until he was gone, of course.

As the service ended I had the strangest feeling, like I wanted to run out in the street, stop every car I saw, look into the eyes of each person driving, and appreciate what they added to my life, what they added to the world. I didn’t do it of course. I knew I would probably get arrested, but the feeling was intense. I knew something in me was rising up, changing me.

How often do we fail to notice the gifts that someone brings to our lives? Often we are so caught up in who is hurting us, who is detracting from our joy, from our peace, who is depleting our energy that we forget to notice the rest.

I get it. There are many challenging people in the world, stirring up a lot of drama and destruction. But there are a lot more Jacks in the world, quietly adding beauty, joy, peace, gratitude, and love to this earth, playing music in the background, smiling in the street, holding doors open for us, planting flowers on our path, wishing the best for us, sharing their gifts with us. I want to notice that more. I want to feel that more. I want to realize that more…and sooner.

Many years ago during a particularly dark period of my life, I had spent hours crying but had no choice but to make a trip to the grocery store. My eyes were puffy, my nose was red, and there was no way to hide it. I walked through the store with my head down, hoping no one would look at me, praying to be invisible.

When I headed to the counter to pay, I was unable to avoid the cashier, a young man barely out of high school. He talked to me casually while he checked me out, and as I was about to make my get-away, he said gently, “You know, everything’s going to be OK.”

Normally I would have been horrified that a stranger acknowledged my pain, but that day was different. I felt a warmth wash over me as if God had spoken these words directly to me through this man. I felt a deep connection to this cashier whom I would never see again. In that moment I felt a deep connection to all humans.

We are all touching each other’s lives along the path. We are sharing our energy, our gifts, our essence with each other. We are all being used by the Divine to carry love into the world if we so choose.

We are so interconnected. We can choose to be aware of that or not. We can choose to focus on the people who hurt us and disappoint us, or we can choose to notice the people who add beauty to our lives.

We can choose to barrel through the world without notice of whom we’re affecting, or we can choose to find our own unique ways to bring light to the lives of others.

The farmer who grows our food, the friend who shows up for us, the neighbor who fixes our sink, the refuse worker who carries our trash away, the family member who prays for us, the nurse who looks after our loved one, the waiter who serves us cheerfully, the teacher who believes in us or our children, the artist who inspires us, the co-worker who listens without judgment, the cashier who smiles at us, the pianist who plays for us, and the list goes on and on.

We are bathing in the light of others. Jack reminded me to notice that more, to appreciate that more. I wish I could have been reminded in a different way, but I am grateful for the reminder nonetheless.

As Ram Dass said, “We are all just walking each other home.” Thanks to all of you for walking with me and allowing me to walk with you along this steep curvy beautiful path. What an incredible journey!

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