Out there in the stars there’s a story of turning night into day. It starts with an old man who lived in the dark. His days weren’t like anyone else’s, because he didn’t talk to anyone else. Instead, he lived alone in a cabin in the woods. There was never sunshine where he lived. Instead, he chopped firewood, carried water from the well, harvested mushrooms and berries, and hunted animals in the dark, day in and day out.
One time during the day hours the old man was going about his chores when a beautiful girl came to him. She greeted him warmly, and after not talking to anyone else for so long, he stumbled over his words. Soon though, they were talking freely, and as they talked the skies got brighter around him. Other things happened, too, and soon he saw this wasn’t a young girl, but instead a strong woman. As the light grew warmer and shown through the trees, he grew younger, until suddenly he saw they were clearly the same age. What he thought was one long conversation turned out to have happened over days, which he would have lost track of but not for the sun newly rising and setting in his life.
One day the woman came to him with her smile and a story, and he left the cabin in the woods forevermore. Then they moved to a small cottage by the shore where she and he live happily, sharing the work of operating a lighthouse. That is a story of turning night into day.
As people who want to change the world, we try to turn night into day all the time. But we get stuck! We try to rip open the night and shine light into the darkness to make daytime instead of showing people how to take the basket off their own candle. We believed Dr. King when he said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” Somehow though, after the lights don’t come on and people aren’t jumping up and down about how we brought the light, we get frustrated and grumpy. We seem to forget the other part of what Martin was saying: “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
We need to teach love of self and love of the world. We need to engage full and whole within ourselves, then seek to solidarity with others as they do the same.
Practice 8: Encourage Living Fully and Wholly, First.
The best-meaning world-savers oftentimes become myopic, seeing the whole of the planet’s problems from only their issue’s perspective.
Environmentalists believe that if we’d tend to the earth’s needs everything would get better. Educators think we need a more successful pedagogy or better funding. Politicians, philanthropists, healthcare workers, artists, and many others believe the same.
So we go about creating community engagement and civic engagement and student engagement and volunteer engagement and all kinds of engagement programs and initiatives. However, somewhere along the way we forget about the actual people we are trying to serve.
How To Begin Full and Whole Living
- Accept that in order to actually serve others, we must, must, must serve ourselves first.
- Treat ourselves as we’d have others treat us.
- Make an honest and thorough examination of who you are, how you are right now.
- Acknowledge the rights and wrongs you’ve done to yourself.
- Show yourself grace and love, regardless of where you’ve been, what you’ve done, and who you were, because you know that everything you’ve done has led you to this precise point.
- Know that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be, doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.
When you want others to engage full and whole in their own lives, you start with you and then you can lead them. This is essential, and the way forward for everyone of us.