Lighting the Lights

Chanukah has just ended.  Maybe you, like me, are sorry to see the last candle lit and happy to have a break from cleaning wax out of the menorah for another year!  I had the privilege of lighting candles one late afternoon with the participants in our adult medical day center.  That’s a program that enables people to age more successfully in the community by providing full day programming that includes transportation, meals, nursing care and social work services.  Our day program is filled with a wide range of people, with ages from the 40’s to the 90’s, with differing health needs and a variety of religious and ethnic background.

As we lit the candles and chanted the blessings, one of the participants asked me about the menorah and that led to the story of Chanukah.  It’s a story that we all know, one we have heard and been told many times, about courage in the face of great odds, about miracles that we celebrate to this day, about the Divine spirit that guided both our military success and the remarkable eight days that the oil lasted. There were clearly people in the room for whom this was a familiar story, one that they likely had shared with their own families at some point.  And there were others for whom this was new, who not only loved understanding the significance of the symbols but who were delighted to understand the connection between oil and the Chanukah-themed refreshments they’d been enjoying.

Making those “Chanukah connections” doesn’t stop with understanding the oil of the latkes and the sufganiyot.  It goes well beyond to a connection to miracles and a connection to light.  We take so much for granted in our sophisticated world, we understand how things work and we make them work, we live knowing that just about every answer to every question can be had with a few keystrokes on our computer or swipes on our smartphone.  Have we lost the ability to see the miracles that happen in our lives, to identify the miracles that are there for us every day?

When we talk with older adults, they are often much quicker to call out ongoing miracles.  They talk about seeing a new great-grandchild as a miracle—both the miracle of birth and the miracle of their having lived to see the moment.  Recovering from an illness or injury, regaining the ability to walk and be independent is often described, and seen, as a miracle.  They look back on their lives and they tell us of the miracles that they witnessed—of being in the right place at the right time to meet their future spouse, of connecting with a person who led them to their career, of moments that represent the high points of their lives. These are not just random events, for many of them, these are truly the stuff of miracles.

What if we each stopped for a moment to recognize the miracles in our life every day?  If we stopped to be appreciative of our health, our families, our friends, our connections and our community.  What if we let the miracle of Chanukah open our eyes to the ongoing miracles that exist for us? What a different life and different world we might create.

About the Author
Carol Silver Elliott is President and CEO of The Jewish Home Family, which runs NJ's Jewish Home at Rockleigh, Jewish Home Assisted Living, Jewish Home Foundation and Jewish Home at Home. She joined The Jewish Home Family in 2014. Previously, she served as President and CEO of Cedar Village Retirement Community in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is past chair of LeadingAge and the Association of Jewish Aging Services.