Not too long ago, I was contacted by an author who had just published a short story called The Tale of the Lantern Lady1. Having received similar emails before, my cursor inched towards the delete button. Then it stopped.
Fast forward to me deciding to set up a Support Other Worthwhile Projects section on my blog, her sending me a PDF of her story as a thank you, and me having one of those “just-what-I-needed-even-when-I-didn’t-know-I-needed-it” moments.
With the effects of her story still lingering, this is what I wrote back to Natalie (the author):
I am not sure if I will be able to find the words to describe the impact reading your story had, but I will try…For many years, I was a therapist myself. Giving more to others than I gave to myself, I burned out after 15 years. Having identified myself by my profession for so many years, it has been difficult transitioning to the world of writing. So often, I have been bitten by the self-doubt bug, questioning myself, questioning my abilities. In my struggle to gain my footing and find my “purpose” again, I had forgotten how I had been a lantern lady to so many. I had forgotten the meaning in what I had once done. Your story brought it back to life. Even more, it renewed within me that my lantern lady days (smile) still continue on in those I worked with. Some may even be lantern ladies to others now.
Thank you for being my lantern lady, Natalie. Your story reminded me of what I have done for others, what I can do for myself, and to not give up pursuing my dream of making a living with my words and my art. The path seems long right now (and rocky and uncertain), but you have reminded me that there are lanterns along the way…
I believe we are given so many opportunities to be “lanterns” to others. Every word, deed, and action has the potential to be a light to another person. Some times we consciously hold a lantern firmly in our hand, as we reach out to someone who is struggling. Other times, it is a simple act of kindness that has the potential to transform into something more (often without us even knowing).
Some days I know I am not a lantern to anyone (myself included): I throw around careless words and walk with my eyes closed. But on my good days (which I hope outnumber the former) I try to be conscious of the energy I share and make choices that brighten, rather than diminishes another’s light.
I am a firm believer in the well-known saying, what you put out into the world comes back to you. In my own life, it often ricochets back when I least expect it (and most need it). What feels like a random moment, turns into something far deeper. And it happens when I have the courage to open my eyes and my heart. It is then that I see flickers of light all around me, lighting up my path.
“Never fear the shadows. They simply mean there’s a light shining somewhere nearby.” — Ruth E. Renkel
“We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light.” — Evelyn Dunbar
“We all walk in the dark and each of us must learn to turn on his or her own light.” — Earl Nightingale
“Each of us has an undeniable responsibility to ourself and the rest of the world to be our personal best on any given day. The ripple effect is far too-reaching to do otherwise.” — Laurie Buchanan
“Dare to reach out your hand into the darkness, to pull another hand into the light.” — Norman B. Rice
“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” — Ben Sweetland
1 The Tale of the Lantern Lady, by Natalie Patterson Mohr: Whether it be sickness, life challenges, mental illness or spiritual voids, at times dark moments can seem to swallow us. After these experiences, we emerge with a new life lesson, a growth in character, or a change in perception. The Tale of the Lantern Lady is an allegorical story about the influential people who provide guidance and help to those suffering from such struggle. Despair can lead us to feel hopeless, isolated, and irrational and can make it more difficult to fight our battles alone. This story pays homage to the “angels” who bridge the gap between pain and positive change in others’ lives. Their “lanterns” encourage, illuminate, and empower those who struggle.