Light and Hope

Last Thursday I had the privilege to listen to Noemi Ban, a Holocaust survivor.  An Auschwitz survivor.  A 21st century survivor.  If you want to quiet a crowd of 600 teenagers have a simple stage-light trained on a 90 year old woman who has every right to hate …but doesn’t.  And while a simple stage-light illuminated her, she spread an aura of hope-filled light across the room that connected to each and every soul.  Simply spoken she conveyed through her words and memories that without HOPE, she was nothing and without HOPE today, we are nothing. Then, something horrific happened in Connecticut.

I am drawn to the words light and hope today.  Without a beacon, a simple flicker or steady solid, it is easy to lose hope. When Ms. Ban spoke, she recalled a memory that took place in the cattle car as she was being transported to Auschwitz.  Once the door of the train car shut a woman pulled out a silver Shabbat candle holder and placed it in the center of the car, much to the horror of all those who surrounded her, fearful of severe punishment if she were caught.   She knew of the danger yet she still held hope in the form of a twelve-inch candle holder in her frightened hands.

Light and hope.

It is no wonder a bright star in the East guided so many to a stable in Bethlehem.

It is in our human nature.  It is our curiosity.  When we see a light twinkling in the sky… we hope….to make a wish.  When we see stadium lights reflecting off clouds hugging the earth…we hope… our team is winning. When we see a fluorescent glow of light in a store…we hope…it is still open.   When we see the porch light on…we hope…someone we love is home. When we see a candle flickering for the memory of a small child…we hope… for peace in our hearts.

Light and hope.

My dad grew up the son of an Irish sheep rancher on the high desert of South-central Oregon.  He would talk about the days spent moving livestock across the high desert to summer pastures in the shadow of Crater Lake. He would also talk about the nights, where the distant tattoo of a horse’s hooves would introduce a weary ranch hand long before his human form stepped into the fire lit circle.  Campfires flickering across the high desert brought the hope of a hot meal, the hope of a warm sleep, and the hope of warm camaraderie to a tired man surrounded by miles of vast empty landscape.

Light and hope.

Sometimes our world seems like a high desert landscape.  Vast.  Empty. Void.  But just like the ranch hands of my dad’s memories or the brave woman of Jewish faith being transported to an unknown, we cannot give up hope.  We must keep our eyes focused on the light because that is OUR human nature.  It has been…for thousands of years. To follow the light.  To never, ever, give up hope.

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