One Small Candle
by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
I happen to know a number of people who are experiencing big difficulties and challenges in their lives at the moment. Some have been hurt and need a listening ear to share their pain. Others are struggling with their relationships and a few of them are grappling with emotional issues such as anxiety and depression. But I am not a psychologist and do not have the necessary skills to provide support, nor do I have the energy to help each one with their specific issues. On the other hand I feel a sense of responsibility. Can you advise?
When you have guests at your home it takes effort to provide for their various needs, and the more guests you have the harder it may be. The more people you invite the more food you will have to cook and the more beds you will need to prepare. For one guest a small table with one place setting can be sufficient, but for ten guests a larger table with much more food is required.
But there is one thing that you can provide that is not difficult and will not depend on the number of invitees - light. For one guest you turn on the lights so that the room can be bright. For ten guests you can flick the same switch, generating the same amount of light. In Talmudic language this is known as the principle of: "a candle for one is a candle for a hundred."
Helping others and supporting friends through their challenges and struggles is like emotional hospitality. The same principles apply. There are many ways you can show this hospitality. You can try and solve each individual problem, but this will require tremendous skill and effort. You can be the ear for people to unburden themselves, but this too can be very time consuming and draining. Others with more expertise, time and energy might have to provide this type of support.
But there is one simple act of hospitality that you can do that will need the same resources and energy no matter how many people there are. You can flick the switch and turn on the light. Light is a symbol of optimism, positivity, warmth and hope. Smiling and giving off a positive energy instills confidence and hope and lifts those around us.
Often people who struggle generate a negative energy and an environment of pessimism and gloom. In this 'darkness' no can see and everyone remains stuck, unable or unwilling to move forward and seek solutions. The first and the most powerful step to resolving challenge is an optimistic attitude, a mindset of hope.
If you don't have the time or energy, let others do the cooking and cleaning and you just turn on the light. Smiling is contagious and a warm "good morning" or a quick word of encouragement can go a long way in pulling people out of their negative mindset and giving them a positive and optimistic attitude.
With one small positive candle you can illuminate a whole room.