Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Gift of Light - #celebratelu

[The Celebrate Link-up is hosted by Ruth Ayres on her blog. Join in each Saturday with your own post about celebrations.]

"Sometimes our light goes out, but its blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being." 
Albert Schweitzer

March was pretty unkind. And I'm not referring to the weather. 

The month of March--and if we're going to be honest, the end of February, too--carted me through a number of roller coaster-esque dips and drops and spirals that put me in an undue place of begging for the ride to stop. Stressful school politics, shared hardship of friends, relationship anxieties, or personal family tragedy seemed to await on the other side of every exhilarating climb or curve of the track. I couldn't get to reading, and I was struggling to make time for writing. When I sat down to write, all the words and ideas felt forced. I didn't feel good about anything I wrote. I was drowning in pressure and urgency. 

My light was going out, and I was frustrated. It felt like all I could do was watch the dimming unfold, a witness encroached by darkness, unable to change course.

Last Saturday, something happened that shifted my mindset, and it came from an unexpected place.

This fall, a colleague & I took young fans to
a library event to meet Cynthia Lord.
Cynthia Lord has always been an author whose books inspired me for the way they capture genuine emotions in challenging situations of young readers. She brings characters to the lives of her readers who can easily become friends and examples for handling adversity. She's done this with Rules, Touch Blue, and--now--Half a Chance. The respect and awe I feel for Cynthia as an honored Maine author accounts for how touched I was to read her Facebook post last Saturday. After reading another post of a friend, Cynthia spoke with her husband about the Heinemann Boothbay Literacy Retreat opportunity that happens in Maine each year, and about how it is an intangible experience for so many of Maine's educators. Then, she posted on Facebook that they wanted to make this experience a possibility for one Maine educator this summer by sponsoring their registration and housing, asking in return that the teacher create an opportunity afterwards to share his/her learning with the other teachers who did not attend. 

This couple's immense outpouring of generosity for a Maine teacher whom they may or may not know started to relight my flame. In the face of all the instances and images of hurt, fear, anger, suffering, grief, loss (you get the idea) that were popping out at me along my roller coaster ride, here was a bold and unexpected gesture of kindness, generosity, and selflessness. 

I submitted my name to Cynthia because the retreat experience certainly called to me with it's promise of presentations from gurus who have been important in reshaping my practice and plentiful time for self-reflection and writing. I watched the reactions and responses of my Maine colleagues as they put forth their names, too, and with each one, I knew someone deserving was going to benefit from this great act of kindness. Any of the colleagues who entered the drawing would have used the experience to its fullest and would have been happy to share with others.

Many of these colleagues knew the results of the drawing before me. I learned of my good fortune through an email from a friend and went to Facebook for verification. And even then, as I watched Cynthia's fingers stir the slips, pick out one, and unfold it on her posted video, I almost still couldn't believe it said my name.

When I saw the original post with Cynthia's offering of this gift, I knew someone would be very, very lucky. I didn't imagine it would be me. 

Of course, there is a part of me that carries others' disappointment, too, since my name was in the company of many other deserving names, and only one could be chosen. Maybe this is why I've been quiet about my excitement; I'm hopeful that they feel I am worthy and deserving, too.

My name being drawn may have been more than a coincidence in my tested mind. I'm touched that Cynthia and John are investing in me, taking a chance that I can use the knowledge and profit from the experience in a way that will ripple and benefit others in turn. Their support and trust has blown on my light, coaxing more from inside of me, driving me to make their investment worthwhile and meaningful. Even though the retreat at Boothbay is still months away, their act has already had an effect. I have found this week that I have slowed down (a little). I have been more patient. I have been more attentive to others, colleagues and students, more aware of how I can give to them and their needs better by being more selfless and less caught up in the tangle of my mind. I cannot replicate Cynthia and John's actions by giving someone this once in a lifetime opportunity, but as they have given in a way they are able, I am inspired to assume an attitude of giving, however I am able.

Life IS a roller coaster--that's to be expected. But there are always going to be things to celebrate along the way. Today I celebrate this:

  • I celebrate the spirit of kindness and generosity of Cynthia Lord and her husband, John. 
  • I celebrate the incredible opportunity for learning and growth that they bestowed upon me.
  • I celebrate the rekindling of my inner flame, a renewed awareness of my own potential and possibility.

"This little light of mine/I'm gonna let it shine/
"Let it shine, shine, shine... Let it shine."


  1. Oh my gosh! This story gave me goosebumps. Congratulations!!!

  2. Congratulations! What a wonderful opportunity and it seems it came at just the right time for you. I hope your roller coaster slows down and stops slamming you with dips in the road also.

    1. Thank you, Andrea. I hope so, too, but until then I'm going to try to take it in stride. Certainly I have a great opportunity ahead of me to look forward to!

  3. That trip is going to be amazing! So happy for you! So glad things are turning around. You deserve the best!

    1. Thank you, Gigi. YOU are amazing. I look forward to sharing with you and others.