“All the darkness of the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” ~ St. Francis of Assisi
Every once in a while, when it seems like you’re surrounded by hate, someone does something unexpectedly loving, and you’re reminded that one act of kindness is stronger than 100 acts of selfishness. Right when it feels like the world is sliding toward a crappier, more hopeless place, somebody, right when you need it, does something that reminds you that there is still hope. And just when you’re feeling hopelessly outnumbered–when rational discussion is on the ropes and sanity is hard to find in the midst of all this darkness–you remember that even though things may seem so dark, the darkness is no match for the light.
I’ve been in a really low place lately…. It started with Sandy Hook, but really it wasn’t all those kids and people being shot that brought me so low–I mean, the shooting was so awful and tragic and sad, but there are always going to be people who do horrible, crazy things. What really brought me to a place close to despair was how so many people responded to this tragedy. I started to feel overwhelmed and powerless against the insanity and divisiveness of the responses. (I feel this way a lot in life–A random, crazy thing someone posts as a Facebook status doesn’t bother me that much, but it’s not until there are a bunch of “likes” and people jumping on crazy’s bandwagon that I feel compelled to speak up. Some jerk might make a racist joke at a party, but what’s really tragic is when everyone laughs). Anyway, it was in this state of despair that I walked in to work at the restaurant a few nights ago….
One of my first tables was a party of ten or eleven folks. They ate and drank and laughed, and I took really good care of them. I always keep checks separate just in case, but when it came time to pay, one guy at the table asked for the whole check. When I brought back his card, I told him that the restaurant writes in a gratuity with large parties, but “whatever he felt was appropriate was great.” A moment later, he discreetly pointed out a young couple who was on a date and had some food and shared a bottle of wine, and he said he wanted to get their check as well. So he bought their meal, but I didn’t know if he knew them or not…. It was bugging me, so as they were walking out, I asked if he knew them, or if it was just a “random act of kindness.” He said, “No, I don’t know them, but you took really good care of us, and I just wanted to make someone else’s night a little better.” I shook his hand, and I said, “Thank you…. Seriously, Thank you.”
I came home that night feeling renewed, and I sat down at my computer at 1:00 AM, determined to write and remind everyone that, even when it feels like we’re surrounded by hate and fear and division, LOVE WINS! Three hours later, I looked over the absolute garbage I had written…. I realized there was nothing there other than a litany of the things that are wrong with the world. It’s so easy for me to focus on the negative–on the hatred and the crap and the darkness–but everyone knows how screwed up things are. The world is absolutely full of people who are afraid. People who are angry. People who are ignorant and hateful and irrational…. People who are consumed by darkness. And those people are always going to be around. There is a time and a place to try to talk sense into people, but sometimes what we need–what I need–is to be reminded that love is so much stronger than hate:
- A disturbed kid gets his hands on some guns and walks into an elementary school…. Love is stronger than hate.
- Fools buying into a conspiracy theory saying the Sandy Hook massacre didn’t really happen and that it was a plot by the government to sway public opinion to take away our guns…. Truth is stronger than a lie.
- 11 million views on a YouTube video showing “evidence” of that hoax (that has been DEBUNKED)…. Clarity is stronger than confusion.
- 100,000 new NRA members the weekend after the shooting…. Wisdom is stronger than ignorance.
- People moving to some freaky, 2nd Amendment commune/fortress to live without liberals and gather up weapons to fight back when Obama becomes the new Hitler…. Love is stronger than fear.
- People using words like “Tyranny” and “Civil War” over an attempt at common sense gun regulations…. Community is stronger than division.
- Idiots celebrating Robert E. Lee’s birthday on Martin Luther King day…. Friendship is stronger that antagonism.
- Fiscal cliffs and debt limits…. People in the church peddling fear by selling non-perishable survival rations to folks who are afraid of the end of the world…. Pastors preaching material prosperity for the faithful and setting goals for private jets…. Lance Armstrong giving the world another reason to not believe in heroes…. Peace is stronger than panic. Hope is stronger than despair. Love is stronger than hate. LIGHT IS STRONGER THAN DARKNESS!!!
Sometimes, all it takes to shine a light in the darkness is witnessing a simple act of kindness and generosity to a stranger. And here’s the thing: The darkness never stood a chance! “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” One act of kindness, one act of selflessness, one act of bravery, one act of LOVE has the power to pull someone (me) out of the pit of despair. And we can be that difference to each other! It can be something as small as an anonymous act of generosity to a stranger (not to mention the $100 he also left me on top of the auto-gratuity), or something as big as a hero who died proclaiming love as a response to injustice and violence–A hero who said, “If a man has not found something worth dying for, he is not fit to live.” Last night I stood with hundreds of people at a concert honoring the life of Martin Luther King Jr., and I held hands with strangers and sang “We Shall Overcome.” It’s a simple song. There are a bunch of different verses: “We shall overcome,” “We’ll walk hand in hand,” “We shall all be free….” But the one that really got me last night was “We are not afraid.” I am not afraid. You don’t have to be either. If we spend all our time focusing on all the stuff that is wrong, we might miss all of the beautiful things that inspire us and give us strength to keep working…. “Oh deep in my heart I do believe we shall overcome someday.”
“Finally, my brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Philippians 4:8