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I saw your light

When you (or I) light that candle there is no telling how far the light will extend, how many lives it will touch now or in the future, and how many other candles will be lit from it. 

This morning while still in darkness, with sounds of wind kicking up and splaying bouts of rain on the house I read something from one of those unmet friends – one of the connections from the land of the Internet. Gardner Campbell very eloquently told a story of connection, meaning, and value in his blog post from today (well last night still on his half of the world) and I kept thinking yep, hey, I know exactly what you mean. I don’t want to spoil his post by telling you all about it – you should definitely read every word of it. It is not an academic article – it relates to everyone who has ever met another human being and been affected by their words, touch, or presence and felt that sense of connection – the gratitude that gives you a resonance of warmth, and then if you let it, radiates from you.

The glow of Gardner’s post, that light from his ‘Candle in the window‘ as he called it was felt across the ocean. I have to admit it took me two goes to read it – I saw his initial tweet and Candle in the window is a children’s Christmas song in the UK and it happens to be the one you hear at school with the class half-singing to a cheesy CD backing track – and as a performing musician not quite learning things right sometimes makes me cringe. Because of that association, I didn’t click the link on his original tweet, but then it popped up again on my Twitter feed:Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 07.39.09

– and this time I clicked on it.

In this fast-paced now-land that we live in, the million instant views of a video clip on facebook (with all the autoplay on devices) is very appealing and I too find myself thinking wouldn’t it be nice it…. one day I’ll figure that all out. In the meantime I really really like the idea of the unmet friends. -and Gardner, when we do meet there’s a lot of catching up to do since we last met virtually on that last webinar of Connected Courses. Remember I improvised a bit on my cello for the first time live on air? My candle was lit then; I borrowed some of the fire from your flame.

When someone else lights their candle from mine, or I from theirs, is not diminished (we all know that Buddhist saying). Recently I’ve been reminded about the importance of telling people what they mean, what they do, thank you. In academia we call it feedback. In life we call it communication. Whatever the label, it is important and how else can we know? When tragedy does happen, there are often fantastic eulogies, and the dead person finally gets told so much, but shouldn’t living ears hear those words? The important thing is that we stoke the fire while it burns.

Keep blogging. You’ve got something to say and it’s not falling on deaf ears.


Image CC BY-NC by Santanu Vasant

Featured image (top) by Diana CC BY-NC-ND


13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Laura,

    I came to your post today because I saw it in one of Simon’s Tweets. Thank you for writing it.

    I know Simon and you because something prompted me to join in the #clmooc group in 2013, even though I’m not a classroom teacher. In reading your post today, and Gardner’s, I’m reminded of why I am so passionate about volunteer-based tutor and mentor programs….which I talk about often in the #clmooc chats.

    I became a volunteer in one in 1973 when I first came to Chicago and started working in the retail advertising department at the Montgomery Ward corporate headquarters. I was matched with a 4th grade boy named Leo and we met for about an hour each Tuesday after work in the basement cafeteria of one of the Wards office buildings.

    A couple of years later I was persuaded to become the volunteer leader of that program, when the previous leader suddenly announced, “I’m going to Europe and not coming back for two years!”

    From that day in 1975 till May 2011 I was responsible for connecting strangers to each other in an annual ritual that started in August as we recruited volunteers and youth, and went through late May when we held a year-end graduation for 6th graders and a celebration to recognize volunteers. The program had 100 pairs of 2nd to 6th graders in 1975 and 440 students and 550 volunteers when I left it in October 1992. In Nov. 1992, with the help of six other volunteers I started a program to help graduates of the first program move through high school. We started with seven volunteers and five 7th and 8th graders and had about 80 teens and 100 volunteers participating by 1998. We also launched the Tutor/Mentor Connection, to help similar programs grow in all high poverty areas of Chicago.

    While some of the volunteers worked with each other at Wards, or at other companies, most of the volunteers who joined us were strangers to each other, and to the kids in our programs before they decided to join. Over time, many became deep friends and many are still connected to each other, many years after leaving the formal program.

    Every week, of every year, for over 35 years, I stood in a room filled by as many as 125 pairs of kids and volunteers (often more) and watched the many different interactions and lives connecting, sharing, learning and growing. Anyone who has spent time organizing an event, or conference, probably has the same feeling. Imagine how you’d feel as this repeated over and over for so many years.

    Often, as I watched the interactions of youth and adults, I said to myself, “This would not be happening without the work I and a few others were doing to make it happen.”

    I felt good about that.

    As I read your blog and then went to Gardner’s blog I felt some of the same warmth that comes from the random, and sometime organized, connections that happen as we journey through life. I think I added Gardner’s blog to my web library in 2006 or 07. It’s been there a long time. The article you pointed to shows one of the reasons I added it.

    About Leo? He and I are still connected via Facebook. In 2014 he invited me to come to Nashville to celebrate his 50th birthday with his family and close friends. He paid the expenses.

    44 years ago we were strangers.

    December 13, 2017
    • Laura #

      Thank you so very much for taking the time to share that story. It is amazing. I lived outside of Chicago for most of my ‘growing up’ years and can put images to the things you describe. It is a pleasure to virtually meet you, and I hope our paths cross in the future.

      December 14, 2017
  2. Wendy #

    This has been brought to light by Simon as a retweet for the light theme of #decdoodle. I’ve also been enjoying the #gratitude tan in Mastodon which is like a little light. Thank you for the candles (in the digital) that you sent when I shared some sad news.

    December 13, 2017
  3. I was connected to you by, gulp, twitter. Which does, when it works right, connect individuals and their work for enjoyment and growth. So while you may lament the lack of millions of views, and Gardner may lament having chased those views a bit, sometimes quality really does beat quantity.

    Because I so appreciate having read this, and the post to which you referred. I guess what I take from it is the power of the connectiveness of individuals, the humanity of empathy and listening, passing by a house with a candle in the window as it were.

    I live in Vermont which, while twice the population of Iceland, is still small by almost anyone else’s standards, and I am constantly struck by the closeness of our little world, how this person knows that person who knows you very well.

    Like Saturday night. We were staying at an airB&B; a house populated by the gaggle of family related to my wife and, truthfully, I needed a little air. So I headed down the dirt road, lit by the harvest moon, gentle breeze, until I came upon a barn. A single 100 watt bulb illuminated the farmer out front, standing beside his truck, arms folded, looking, not at me, not at the mountains, really, just looking, taking everything in.

    A host of cats started walking towards me. He was just as friendly. Talk came easily. We talked about his animals — goats and cattle, chickens and geese (and one Tom for Thanksgiving) and how his wife, who’d put a sign on the door “Julie’s Ark” was the one who gave food to the cats who were continually dumped at the barn door, cast-offs to most, but not to Julie.

    We talked about how he stopped growing corn. A story in itself. How the seeds had grown so expensive, the required herbicides even more so, and how one year he and Julie decided to use half the recommended herbicides and then the following year half of that amount and still the corn came up just fine. And he wondered about that. He wondered about the chemicals and the cost and the labor and decided that “maybe the Amish have it right,” maybe his ancestors had it right, and they returned to grass, and grass only, and got smaller cattle who don’t need grain, and now their farm is certified organic and he gets more money and everything seems more in control.

    And then we exchanged names and that’s when I learned that I knew his brother, had worked with his brother, had long admired his brother, a playwright. And he learned that I was the guy who has been publishing all the kids’ best writing from town all these years and one of them, even, had been his own kid, now out and about in the world.

    We stared at the moon. In silence. Then we said our goodbyes and walked back, he across the road to the house, me back up to where I was staying each with smiles in our hearts.

    In my world, on, what I have just done has a name: It is a sprout, a small story seeded by something we have read. In this case, two things. We consider it a high honor with the hierarchy being — to read, to read and “love”, to read and love and comment, to read and love and comment and add a sprout, a kind of I-liked-your-piece-so-much-that-it-made-me-think-of-this. As in, we saw your candle.

    Thank you for that.


    September 19, 2016
    • Laura #

      I am unbelievably humbled that you took the time to write all that. Thank you! There are many sprouts of beautiful stories there and they touch different parts within me – the Vermont I haven’t visited for 21 years, the moon I saw last night, and the field across my house. I will certainly take a peek inside your world and I am very glad you found mine. Thank you

      September 19, 2016
      • Thank you so much for such a gracious reply, Laura. Keep in touch.

        September 20, 2016
    • I too am humbled by your comment. The hierarchy you describe is almost unbearably beautiful, and at the same time as needful as food, water, and air itself. Thank you, thank you.

      September 19, 2016
      • Gardner, now I am humbled. Thank you. And, yes, we artist souls thrive on our purpose of just getting the idea out, a miracle in the process of connecting our energy and brains and fingers with our soul eyes. But it is so nice when, as a tree falling, we are heard.

        My best to you.


        September 20, 2016
  4. I’m so grateful to have been drawn back here by a separate exchange to find this thought about linking as gifting.

    Thank you both for this exchange.

    August 16, 2016
    • Laura #

      Thank you Kate. I am very glad you found it and you have put a smile on my face.

      August 16, 2016
  5. And a postscript, because I always forget something(s): writing this post and linking it to mine is a great gift indeed. I treasure the response, and I also treasure the vivid demonstration of how we must continue to weave this tapestry, this web, together. This is our heartfelt techne! Thank you.

    January 2, 2016
    • Laura #

      thank you! and yes, I too am sure we’ll meet one day. 🙂

      January 2, 2016
  6. I will always remember your improvisation. Your open, generous response to my impulsive yet also considered request took my breath away and filled me with joy.

    Your light and life illuminate me, too. Thank you. We will someday break bread together.

    January 2, 2016

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