I first heard the Negro spiritual, "This little light of mine," in the movie "Corrina, Corrina" from the 1990s, which tells the story of a nanny, played by Whoopi Goldberg, whose love and manner bring joy, comfort, and renewal to a family who has lost their mother.
At one point after the young daughter has made some progress in recovering from that loss, she sings the song to her grandmother, mourning the death of her husband. She comforts her grandmother by sharing the comfort that she'd found. Her "little light" brightens her grandmother's spirits, and the two begin to sing together.
The message is a reminder that little lights can be bright.
Sometimes I've wished that this "little light of mine" were bigger or brighter and that it would shed more light or make more of a difference.
Our light can sometimes seem small; others' lights shine brighter. What good does my candle do when others are neon?
But think of what just one candle does to darkness.
The light that an individual can bring to a situation or environment, whether it's in the form of insight, joy, or calm, in its simple candle-like presence, dispels darkness.
An account in the Bible shows the significance of one individual's light, despite her low social status. She was an Israelite servant girl, described as a "little maid," who waited on the wife of Naaman, a great military captain for the king of Syria (see II Kings 5:1-14).
When this young servant learned that Naaman was plagued with leprosy, she thought that Elisha, a prophet of Israel, could heal him. Her "little light," shining by the love that moved her to speak up and suggest that Naaman go to see "the man of God" made all the difference. Naaman did go and find Elisha, and he healed him of leprosy. In the process, Naaman also learned a significant lesson in humility.
Another biblical account tells of a "poor wise man" who saved a city. And Jesus described the "widow's mite" as the most significant contribution to the synagogue.
In all of these cases, neither education, social status, nor human accomplishments were necessary credentials to making a significant difference. The light was shining from each one's heart and life.
A poem by John Greenleaf Whittier describes each smile as a hymn and each kindly deed as a prayer (see "Christian Science Hymnal," No. 217). Similarly, every time our light shines, it can be a beacon.
What about the times when you feel you have no light in you to shine? What if you're the one needing light to find your way? At times like this it's good to ask where the light comes from in the first place.
The only reason any of us can shine is because of divine light. We, as the creation of the Divine, are tributary to that light; because divine light is shining, we shine.
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, wrote, speaking of God as divine Mind, "Mind, supreme over all its formations and governing them all, is the central sun of its own systems of ideas, the life and light of all its own vast creation; and man is tributary to divine Mind ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 209).
Acknowledging the source of light and our inherent connection to that source naturally lets the light in. Science and Health also states, "Man, in the likeness of his Maker, reflects the central light of being, the invisible God" (p. 305).
Each of us has the capacity to shine, to play our part in lighting a world.
For with thee
is the fountain of life:
in thy light shall we see light.