I must confess that I’m not a morning person. It’s true that I get up around 5:00, do my discipline of silent meditation, brew coffee, eat breakfast, then head out for the hospital. This pattern has been going on since I was in college and I had a host of 8:00 classes. In fact, throughout the years of seminary, psychiatric chaplaincy, senior pastorates, and denominational work, I wanted to put in good hours so I could have some afternoon time to do my cycling. That meant rising at the same early hour. The vast majority of the occasions, however, when I had time off, I’d “sleep in.” I know that doesn’t sound particularly industrious, but, alas, it is the truth. It wasn’t a delight for me to get up at those early hours: it was HARD! (Boy, do I admire farmers.)
Winter has always made it especially difficult for me to get up early. Yes, the cold air always makes me want to hunker down in the warmth, but it’s not so much the cold as the darkness that makes me want to go back to sleep. It just isn’t natural to rise when it’s still dark, or so it seems. (This makes my admiration for farmers go even higher.) When it’s dark and the alarm of my iPhone goes off, a feeling shoots through me that Franz Kafka would admire. Life just doesn’t feel all that promising when you’re stumbling over the shoes you pushed off last night and left at an unremembered point just in front of the dresser. I don’t know about you, but when it’s dark, and my eyes keep falling shut and a huge force keeps pulling me back toward the bed, I don’t respond to things with the wise sanguinity of a Kung Fu master.
These last few days in Birmingham, though, have been wonderful! Spring’s coming on! Even with Daylight Savings Time, it’s getting light earlier. I’m beginning to wake up before the alarm goes off. I think of the things I get to do that day and slide out of bed rather easily. It happened this morning. My eyes cracked open and I saw light shining on the scaly bark of the oak just outside my window. Motivation surged through me. I got up, ground the coffee beans, meditated, and went out the door feeling really good.
That’s when it hit me: all of these light-dark observations function on a psychological-spiritual level, as well. When you feel alone and unaffirmed, it can feel like you’re walking in darkness. It can become increasingly difficult to find the motivation to do anything. Sometimes, all you want to do is lay there and deny existence. On the other hand, when you feel loved, supported, and affirmed, it’s like walking in the light, and it’s much easier to get up and get going. Words of encouragement brighten things up. Words of praise make things seem less dark. When you get a welcoming hug, or a pat on the back, or a smile of greeting, things seem brighter. When that happens to a person on a regular basis, the world looks a little more colorful, and a person feels more motivated to get up and get going.
That’s what Support Teams do: they make the world an easier place to get going in. It’s amazing to me how when people pull together in showing kindness, encouragement, and simple presence, all kinds of lights come on. So, remember that camp song, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” When you’re part of a team of people practicing kindness and caring on a regular basis, that’s precisely what you do. There’s no surer way to walk in the light than to be one yourself!