The light we cannot see

“The light is unstable, the wind blows it out, the lightning ignites it, it is never simply there, shining like the sun, but it is worth fighting for.” -Paulo Coelho

“Do I LOOK like a nice guy to you?” His index finger is pointing toward me, thumb sticking out in the motion of a hand gun. This is the third time he’s asked me the question, each time with the same gesture, intimidating. Threatening.

We’re on the late train. It’s after 1am and I’m alone. The woman seated next to me shifts in her seat uncomfortably. I stare into his dark brown eyes, smiling.

“Yeah, you do.” I insist, again. We both start laughing.

He is older, missing teeth, clothes hanging off tired bones. Talking to himself, talking to anyone who will listen. Begging to be seen. See me for who I really am. See me for who I could be.

I see you.

“Is it okay if I pet your cat?” I kneel down on the sidewalk of a busy intersection on State street. People are coming and going, carrying shopping bags and coffee cups.

“Of course!” he replies, averting my eyes. “His name is Ghost.”

I sit there, on my knees for as long as it takes me to feel filled up again, to feel connected, to feel outside of myself. For as long as it takes him to find the courage to meet my gaze.

 He tells me his story. About his 17 year old son who committed suicide this spring. About how he lost his job shortly after, got punched in the face at a shelter, got his teeth knocked out. Got the wind knocked out of his spirit.

I see you.

The masked men pointing real weapons, taking innocent lives. The terror. The horror. The aftershocks. What can’t we see?

“Do you think it’s too late for some people? That some are beyond redemption?” I ask in a noisy sports bar.

The Hawks are playing. The noise makers go off, drowning out the sound of Sir Mix-A-Lot singing about big butts on the juke box. I wonder if the gentleman wearing the suit and tie minds. It was his song.

My friend takes a sip of her beer carefully. “Yeah, I guess I do. I think some people are too evil to be healed. They’re too far gone. They need to be taken down, incarcerated, contained, whatever.”

What can’t we see?

I received a notice on my phone two nights ago. “Shelly was marked safe during Paris Terrorist Attacks.” What attacks? I frantically opened my computer, ingesting the awful details as the news tickers updated photo after photo of despair. My heart spilled open.

I know Paris. I know people in Paris. The kind of helpless I feel is personal. I can picture the neighborhoods, the theater, the restaurants. It’s a place beloved by me and by so many others.

Should it matter?

Two night ago, I lit a candle. I sat in silence with the lights turned off, not knowing what else to do. I sat there and I thought about the broken bodies and broken spirits. I held space for what I can’t understand or begin to imagine. I just sat there.

What can’t I see?

The broken bodies and spirits of thousands fleeing countries plagued with more violence on a daily basis than we can fathom. Systems of oppression lurking behind the dark masks of capitalism and greed. Economic disparity leading to countless children dying from malnutrition. Bombs being dropped on hospitals and schools.

The unnamed faces of civilian casualties. The light we cannot see.

I see you.

The grief is overwhelming. It is too much to bear. It is too much. The light of a candle illuminates the heaviest of darkness. The night is black.

It is too much.

It is too much to see with selective hearts. It is too much to pick and choose for whom we light our candles. It is too much to separate the redeemable from the unredeemable. The night is dark and growing thicker. Sorrow resides in my belly, pours out of my closed eyes.

Open them.

Feel it. Feel all of it because it is too much not to. It is too much to light one candle, to sit in silence before the flame in selective solidarity. There is too much at stake. I know that now.

I see you.

I will hold space for you, for them. Not just tonight. Not just when it hits close to home, because all of this is home. You are home. We are home.

If you are in need of light, I will burn the candle for you. It is my promise. Send me an email, or leave a comment. Make it anonymous, make it personal. I will hold space for you and your pain. For all of our pain.

You are my love practice. You are my heart, beating frantically in my chest. You are not alone. We are not alone. We can add our light to each other and shine without discernment. We can broaden the scope of our compassion and our love. We can feel it together, because it is too much not to.


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