When I was a little girl my grandmother taught me a song entitled “Brighten the Corner Where You Are.” It was a peppy little church tune that I still remember. The song has a lighthouse metaphor. The last line of the chorus says, “Someone far from harbor you may guide across the bar, brighten the corner where you are.”
Funny thing is, I collect lighthouse figurines and I never thought of that song before today. I was thinking about a friend who recently lost her sister on her birthday. (Her sister was killed in a car accident.) I was trying to think of what I could do to help comfort her. Several days before this, I had bought her a Grateful Jar (I’ll explain that one later), but now my gift seemed inappropriate in face of her loss. Then the song popped into my head, “Brighten the Corner Where You Are.”
I can’t help but wonder how many times we talk ourselves out of being a lifeline for someone, or “lighthouse” as it were. We second guess our talents, our motives, and our ability to make a difference. We doubt the receptivity of the recipient even when they are our closest friends or family. Yet, how many times have we appreciated the little tokens of love and appreciation that come our way. Why isn’t our first thought, ‘I’d like for someone to do this for me, so I’m sure it will be received in the spirit that I give it – whatever it is? It really shouldn’t be so hard to “brighten the corner.” We know when our motives are pure.
I was walking around the garden department of Walmart feeling a little gloomy. I don’t really remember looking for anything in particular, but I was standing by the bird seed and feeders. A lady walked up to me (she was a customer too) and asked if I knew anything about the different kinds of bird seed.
“Do you have a favorite seed that you use in your birdfeeders,” she asked.
“No,” I responded, “I don’t have any birdfeeders; I’m just looking around.”
“Oh,” she said, “I really want to get some seed and some feeders to thank the birds for singing so sweetly in the mornings. Do you ever listen to the birds in the morning?” To be honest, my first thought was ‘please go away,’ but since I have been taught not to be rude to people I answered her. “Sometimes.”
“I can tell you are feeling a little low in spirit,” she said, “so take a minute to listen to the birds.”
“I will,” I replied patronizingly.
“I mean now!” she persisted.
“Listen to the birds now,” she insisted, “they are all around us.” Sure enough there were birds flying through the garden department. Some were chirping loudly, while others were searching for something to eat with a periodic tweet. I hadn’t noticed them. I stood there for a few minutes just looking and listening.
“Now, don’t you feel better,” the woman said as she walked away. You know what, I did feel better. A stranger had taken the time to brighten the corner of my depressed mind.
While I contemplated whether to give my friend the Gratitude Jar, I could hear my grandmother singing the words to that old song. So, I asked myself, ‘what can I do to brighten her grieved spirit?’ I could call her, I could send her a text, I could take her some food, I could send her a card, I could visit, I could give her the jar I bought for her. Any of these things would be an expression of my love and care. Any of these things may not have the desired effect in the moment, but at some point she would remember the intent. I could affect change or I could allow the opportunity to pass and do nothing.
I refused to allow my insecurities to talk me out of brighten the corner where I was. In fact, I became so motivated by the opportunity to brighten my friend’s corner, I decided I would brighten some of my other friends’ corners too. I bought four more Gratitude Jars. After all, some of them could be having a moment like I was having at Walmart; it didn’t have to be as tragic as my one friend. The times that we are experiencing these days can cause some dark moments in anyone’s life. Perhaps, a little token of care would bring the light back to the eyes or to the hearts of those in the sphere of my influence.
You have a sphere of influence too. What can you do to “brighten the corner where you are?” Look around. Whether you are at home, as I am, or at work, or in the marketplace, is there something you can say or do to make a positive difference in someone’s life? It can be an observation like the stranger in Walmart. It can be a handmade gift. It can be a store-bought token. It can be an electronic message. It can be a prayer or a poem. It can be a smile across the room, or the simply nod of the head, or tip of the hat. It doesn’t really matter how you choose to help someone “across the bar” of depression, sorrow, disappointment, confusion, dis-ease, loneliness, injustice, or isolation. Just don’t talk yourself out of making any positive difference you can. We need more light in this space.
Just think, you may may be able to help someone change directions to a more positive outlook just by letting your light shine a little brighter each day.
Stay safe, Stay sane. Shine bright!