Benched on Inauguration Day

bench

It’s Inauguration Day. Many of us have big plans that include, but aren’t limited to, marching in protests, celebrating, doing tequila shots, feeling hopeful stirrings of change, feeling murderous rage/elation/depression… Needless to say, it isn’t slated to be a boring day. What it will be is a day full of dramatically heightened emotion.

Personally, I plan to avoid society and social media as much as possible. I did my shopping yesterday, lest the masses take to firing off insults at one another or pelting each other with rotten eggs. Politically, I don’t envision it a warm and fuzzy time and think it best to stay close to home.

Yet I do have one outing planned. Our little grade school is dedicating a Friendship Bench for their playground. The idea being that if someone doesn’t have a friend to play with, they’ll sit on the bench to alert others they are in need of companionship.

We’re going to be chatting about kindness and the role we all play in such a seemingly simple concept.  I’m lucky enough to talk with the kids at the dedication. Why me? Because I wrote a book called The Friendship Bench and the children at the school illustrated it. We’re using 100% of the proceeds for acts of kindness.

This concept of kindness is a seed that should be planted at a young age. Kindness encompasses such notions as tolerance, open mindedness and basic human decency. While the rest of the country is celebrating/ mourning, we’ll be discussing how to be inclusive and compassionate. We’ll be planting seeds in young minds; hopeful their generation will prosper in kindness, elevating the world for all of us.

When I was thinking about what I wanted to say to the kids, one vision repeatedly came to mind. It was the image of an embroidery a friend of my mom’s gave to me when I was young. It was the picture of a lit taper with the words, “A candle loses nothing of its light by lighting another candle.”

Those words have followed me throughout my life. There have been times I was so grateful not to be the one in need that I consciously didn’t offer my own light to another, as if neediness was something that could be caught, like the common cold.

I would like to say though, more times than not, I stood up and did the right thing. One instance that comes to mind was during middle school. I think I was in the seventh grade. I wasn’t the most popular student and I wasn’t the least. I rode the wave somewhere in between.  I was however, the tallest, and not always comfortable in my skin.  As such, I did my best to blend into the woodwork where no one would notice me.

Yet there was one student who not only noticed me but seemed to have formed an attachment to me. His name was Randy. Randy was profoundly retarded. Other kids made fun of him but he never knew it. He thought they were his friends, laughing and playing with him. In addition to his mental shortcomings, Randy had horrible acne and a questionable odor. He was not the kind of friend I was looking for.

Randy bought me pencils and would excitedly offer these treasures in front of the school, where he waited for me. I not so happily accepted his gifts and often hurried past as quickly as I could. But one day I thought to myself, Randy is someone’s child, people love him and he didn’t choose to born the way he was. That day I took Randy’s offering and I looked him in the eye and smiled brightly, conscious of his humanity. I thanked him profusely for the beautiful pencil. I thanked him for always thinking of me.

It wasn’t so long after that Randy found someone else to adore and bestow his gifts upon. I was always grateful that I had the opportunity to come to my senses and be kind to him before he moved on and shared his light with someone else.

I didn’t become less because I was decent to him. In that moment I became more because two lights burning together always produce a greater illumination than one.

Please take this thought with you throughout your day. Regardless of who you voted for, what your political beliefs are, if we put all of our flames together, we can overpower any darkness.

A candle loses nothing of its light by lighting another candle.

 

*Whitney Dineen is and award-winning and Amazon bestselling author of romantic comedies and middle reader fiction. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family, where they raise chickens, bees and organic vegetables.

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