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December 20, 2013

Shedding Light on the Common Good

CHICKASHA —

Included in my great-grandmother’s diary is a story recalling an evening in the year 1902.  Earlier that year, she and my great-grandfather and their children had moved to a homestead eight miles south of what is now known as Carnegie, Oklahoma.  Before there was an Alden community, there was simply an expanse.  Before section lines and the Ozark Trail were cut in and before other quarter sections were settled, there were no landmarks.  The land was new and unfamiliar to them.  

Her diary tells of a trip that her husband and boys had taken to Apache.  Nightfall came and they had not returned.  Sometime after dark, she and her daughters heard them in distance.  She hurriedly lit a lantern and yelled, but was unable to get their attention across the dark prairie.  The men continued several miles northward until they neared the Fort Cobb area and realized that they had passed the homestead.  They redirected to the southwest and with the assistance of the light made it home sometime after midnight.  From that night forward, they hoisted a lantern on a tall pole that they had erected for a beacon to bring them home.

My great-grandmother recalled that the incident brought life to the song, There’s a Light in the Window for Thee, Brother” in a way that no other lesson could.  The need and appreciation for light is rooted in our being.  Virtually every world religion recognizes the primacy of light.  In fact, most faiths emphasize light as a core principle.  Christians are taught that the Bible is a lamp unto their feet and they fail to fulfil an essential biblical charge if they are not a “light unto the world.”  

Allah is spoken of by those of the Muslim faith as the inspiring, motivating and guiding source of light.  Annually, a billion Hindus, Sikhs and Jains light lanterns and earthen lamps in celebration of Diwali, the festival recognizing that light awakens awareness of God and the triumph of good over evil.  Hanukkah celebrants light their menorahs to celebrate the enduring miracle of enduring faith triumphing over evil. Kwanzaa, the secular celebration of black culture involves the lighting of seven candles rising from wooden stands, symbolic of the celebration’s seven principles, and recalling roots in Africa.

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