“Travel light, live light, spread the light, Be the light.”— Yogi Bhajan

A few years ago in the midst of an unspeakable tragedy, we pulled together to support the family and friends with love and support in a way that made the soul of the community shine. In the past few weeks, again in the midst of tragedy our community has provided a tremendous amount of support for family and friends, as well as the community as a whole. As I drive around the community and see the abundance of blue ribbons and lightning bugs displayed I am reminded of the true meaning of compassion. Compassion and empathy are essential human qualities that allow one to feel, understand, and respond to the suffering of others. They enable individuals to enter into and maintain relationships of caring. Tragedy tends to bring us together: allowing us for a moment to feel we share common bonds in humanity. We become more human and focus on the things that really matter in our lives. The community comes together, joined in sorrow and grief. This situation has taught us about the ability to choose love over hate, understanding over anger and belief over fear.

Tragedy carries many after-effects. For most of us, these surround the grief and sorrow we feel. But one effect is a renewed perspective and appreciation for the life we do have.

It is a truism to say that without the bad, we cannot appreciate the good. But such extremes have the potential to add balance and perspective to our lives.

These events can be important learning experiences. They can motivate us to change our own lives or to do beneficial things in our community and towns. Putting our lives in perspective and keeping them there can be one small positive result of an otherwise negative event. Hold those you love close and always let them know you love them. Life is too fleeting, we never know when or how it will end. To honor ourselves, and those that love us, it is important to be true to ourselves and do the things that bring us happiness. Through tragedy we find the keys to happiness: love yourself, appreciate the little things, forgive yourself for things that have already happened, and show love to those around you.

Life is meant to be beautiful and the beauty of the human spirit is so strong it can overcome almost anything. Love and kindness matter and we can still band together and find forgiveness. Hatefulness does not have to exist and the absence of it during a tragedy does not tarnish the memory of the person we mourn; it makes it and us stronger. We are much stronger than we think. We can all be pillars of strength and compassion. Allowing your emotion does not hurt you. It heals you; makes you stronger. A helpful philosophy from Eckhart Tolle would be that it is not the things that happen to you that your pain arises from, but your reaction to them.

“Being the light” does not mean being a perfectly positive person who is happy all the time and never makes mistakes. It means doing things to feel free and peaceful, surrendering control, trusting your intuition, showing compassion and kindness to yourself and others, and believing the simple truth that you are enough. It is about bringing light to the places that are dark. It is about looking for opportunities to lift someone else up. It is about making a conscious effort to do the things that make your light shine brighter to help others recognize the light that is within them.

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” — John 1:5

Brenda-Lee Duarte is executive director at LifeLine Counseling Center. Contact her at 981-7400.

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