Monday, September 8, 2014

Driving Away the Shadows

Image by Frank Gruber

Here is a little habit that can make a big difference.


How do you drive away shadows?

Apparently, when Abraham Lincoln was fatally shot at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., he was carrying two pairs of spectacles and a lens polisher, a pocketknife, a watch fob, a linen handkerchief, and a brown leather wallet containing a five-dollar Confederate note as well as several newspaper clippings on the Lincoln presidency.

The newspaper articles are a curiosity. Why did he carry them with him? The eight clippings found in his pockets were largely positive portrayals of his leadership, but the president was not egotistical. In fact, if we know anything about Lincoln, we know that humility was one of his most attractive virtues. Many historians stress that his possession of these clippings was less proof of a president's ego than of a man who needed reassurance. The recently- ended war had been long and costly. His re-election campaign had also been a difficult slog. Lincoln rarely knew a day without public criticism. The newspaper articles would have been affirming to him.

Historians are aware that Abraham Lincoln suffered from bouts of serious depression. Could it be that in those "dark nights of the soul," when despair settled over his mind like a cold and heavy snow, that he could reach into his pocket and find hope? Could it be that these words reminded him of what he had dedicated his life to, the good he had tried to do and the lives he had affected?

Francis of Assisi once said, "A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows." Maybe each newspaper article was a sunbeam that he collected and kept with him.

Have you collected sunbeams? Have you saved away letters and mementos that warm your heart and encourage you when you need a lift? They can drive away many a dark shadow.

Dale Carnegie tells us this: “You have it easily in your power to increase the sum total of this world’s happiness now. How? By giving a few words of sincere appreciation to someone who is lonely or discouraged. Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime.”

Here is little habit that can make a big difference. Send sunbeams. Intentionally send a word of encouragement or appreciation every day to one person. Plan ahead. Keep open to those who need a lift. A letter, card or email will suffice. Or a phone call. It can be short, but must be personal and it must be sincere. 

Occasionally you'll learn what a difference your communication made. Sometimes you won't. But know this – as you drive away the world's shadows you will also fill your life daily with a little more joy.

-- Steve Goodier


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