It’s often been said that we need to let our little light shine. There’s even a song by that name. But it’s not just any light we need to let shine. It’s not the explosive and destructive light of malevolence; it’s the gentle and constructive light of benevolence. That’s the light that makes life worth living and a better place to be. In today’s Provision, poet Mary Oliver and the apostle Paul show us the way. Read on for some sparks that will get your own light shining with love.
It’s been a rich and full week of travel and client activities, including our last two days with the Fostoria Community Schools in Fostoria, Ohio. After almost three years of work, involving leadership coaching, professional development, appreciative inquiry, and nonviolent communication, our time with this wonderful District is drawing to a close. We salute and celebrate the people of Fostoria.
One reason for that salute and celebration is the deep caring and benevolent spirit with which they approach the task of education. With few exceptions, we found in Fostoria the kind of people we would want to be educating our own children. Their love for the work and their passion for the mission were palpable.
In many respects, they represent the spirit of benevolence that we are now writing about in our series on Optimal Wellness. They are there to make life better, not worse, for each other and most of all for the children whose lives and education have been handed to them as a sacred trust.
That’s the attitude and approach we would all do well to take, whether we are educating children or making widgets, in life and work. That’s what makes life not only worth living, but also more enjoyable. We’re not called to let just any light shine; we’re called to let shine the light of love. Consider the following two poems, one by Mary Oliver and the other by the apostle Paul, as the case statement not only for kindness but also for optimal wellness.
The Buddha’s Last Instruction
by Mary Oliver
“Make of yourself a light,”
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal • a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire —
clearly I’m not needed,
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.
1 Corinthians 13: 1-8a, 12f
adapted from The Message version by Eugene Peterson
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy
but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
If I speak the Word with power,
revealing all mysteries and making everything plain as day,
and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps,
but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
If I give everything I own to the poor
and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr,
but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere.
So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do,
I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut.
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the wrongs of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.
For now, until the Divine Completeness arrives,
we have but three things to do:
Trust steadily in God,
hope unswervingly, and
And the best of the three is love.
Do you see the connection between Buddha, Jesus, and Fostoria? We are to let our light shine, but it’s not just any light. It’s not the explosive and destructive light of malevolence. It’s the gentle and constructive light of benevolence. Like the slowly dawning sunrise, that eventually “thickens and settles over the fields” and “blazes over the hills,” we find ourselves “turning into something of inexplicable value.” We find ourselves turning into love.
A love that knows no bounds. A love that “cares more for others than for self,” that “doesn’t strut or have a swelled head,” and that “doesn’t keep score of the wrongs of others.” There is no fault here! There is only that which “looks for the best, never looks back, and keeps going to the end.”
Buddha did that, to the end. Jesus did that, to the end. And the people in Fostoria are doing that, all the way through to the end. It’s not easy being in education today, but love never dies. And the more extravagant the benevolence the better, since the best of the three is love.
Coaching Inquiries: In what way have you anchored your life in love? How clearly does the light of benevolence shine in your life? How could you make it shine even brighter and stronger? Who or what situations could benefit most from your love? Where could you turn for encouragement, challenge, and peace?
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May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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