Kuan Yin. In Buddhism, the Goddess of Mercy. The Bodhisattva (Being of Enlightenment) of Compassion. She who hears the cries of the world.
Originally, as an intern at Loyola University Maryland for their Pastoral Counseling Program, I earned hours toward my Master’s Degree at a loss and bereavement center. That meant working will terminally ill people to help prepare them for death, as well as being available to their family members after the loss of their loved ones. We saw people in their homes, in an oncology center, in nursing homes and/or in our offices.
One day at lunchtime, a female chaplain noticed that I was subdued and asked what was wrong. I didn’t even realize I looked any different. I told her that going into the nursing homes was particularly difficult for me, as so many of the people housed there, although alive, appeared to have already died, their beings diminished. In fact, the nurses would tell me that some nursing home guests had not had visitors in more than 10 years (yes – you read that right – 10 years). The musty smells, their feathery moans, the pleading for help, the anguished cries, the gloomy atmosphere – all left a weighty hopelessness in me long after I ended each visit.
The chaplain, understanding in her eyes, offered this: “Theresa, when you are in the nursing home, for the residents…you are their light.” She paused to make sure I heard. “You might be the only “outside” person they’ve seen in far too long. For them, in a day that’s no different than any other, you are their light.”
I’ve never forgotten that. You Are Their Light.
I’ve learned that many of us don’t look toward the light until we’re alone in the darkness. That light brings us hope, warmth, a reason to get up and move forward. It’s a beacon, a guide, a flame, a spark, an illumination.
Then a funny thing happens. A quote I keep on my desk reminds me that with each act of giving, there is always something good in return. “You cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening your own.”
Smiling, being their light, helped me to shed light into my own dark and broken places.
Thank you, Chaplain Susan, for your wisdom and insight so long ago. I remember. In remembering, I, too am transformed.
“Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.”
~ Albert Schweitzer
So I seek to bring light. To be a messenger. To be present. To be a co-journeyer. To hear their cries.
Kuan Yin. She Who Hears the Cries of the World.