On a recent Sunday evening, the Jewish Home Family hosted our annual gala and we celebrated two wonderful honorees and a year of accomplishments with a performance by Peter Yarrow. Every time we talked about the upcoming program and referenced Peter Yarrow, we added “of Peter, Paul and Mary” although I think most people made that connection without our facilitating it.
Peter sang and spoke for an hour and the room was filled with the sounds of many voices singing along, sharing familiar words and refrains, uniting in the joy of music and message and fellowship. One of the lovely folks who lives in our long term care facility was in attendance, along with a number of other residents. This particular resident has been incredibly excited about the event and told me that she has been a huge Peter Yarrow fan since 1961. She could not wait to hear him live and I promised that she would not only hear him but she would meet him. Both of those things happened and she told me later it was one of the “best things that ever happened” to her.
During the performance, she came over to talk with me, moving her walker with some difficulty across the crowded ballroom. A staff person accompanied her and told me that the resident needed to speak with me urgently. Her topic? She asked if Peter could sing her very favorite song “Light One Candle.” Without my intervention, it so happened that it was the very next song he played and her face was rapturous.
It seemed to me, as I thought about that moment and that music, that the thought of lighting one candle was relevant not just for Chanukah, the season for which the song was written, but for the New Year as well. As anyone familiar with the words can likely tell you, “Light One Candle” is really not about Chanukah in specific but about social justice in a broader sense.
Lighting one candle speaks to survival and tenacity, keeping the flame alive despite the many challenges that arise. It speaks to preserving that light, using that single brave light to spark the way to a brighter future.
At the end of the year, as we think of both our successes and challenges, our joys and our frustrations, the things we celebrate and the things we wish we had done differently, we have an opportunity to think about our flame. Does it burn brightly? Does it shine a positive light on the world around us? Have we used our light to illuminate our own darkness or the darkness of others? There are moments when all of our flames flicker, when we find ourselves doubting or alone, troubled or uncertain. And there are times when we feel not only our own light but we bask in the warmth of other’s flames.
May 5777 be a year in which your flame glows with renewed energy, your light reflects joy, health, happiness and peace.