On these darkest days of the year, our primitive instincts of fear of the dark may be what drive the broad display of lights of all kinds from colorful Christmas ornamental displays to the candles of Hanukkah. Perhaps our ancestors, observing the shortening days, brought rituals of light to help prevent overwhelming darkness, bring back a spring-time, and the return of the sun.

Recently, the funeral observances of George H.W. Bush brought back awareness of one of his signature phrases. In his nomination speech speaking about volunteer organizations in our country, he called them “a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.”

This was a notion that may have seemed romantic, and unfortunately, invited satire back in those days. But I like the idea that each of us, as individuals, families and community members, can be a beacon of light for those around us. One contemporary, compassionate thinker put it this way: “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

These are points of light in what may be a dark and chaotic world to those around us. When volunteering to care for homeless and underserved people in Galveston at Luke Society and St. Vincent’s Clinic, I sometimes wonder if the medical care we provide is of less value than the fact these challenged souls are offered a bridge of light and hope in an otherwise dim world. That someone takes the time to care, to reach out, shake a hand, look kindly into bleary, sad, discouraged eyes, a care-worn face, or to offer a listening ear, these are each the gift of light, of love, and of hope. Who knows what despair and disaster such small acts may have prevented.

Recently, my wife and I viewed a stirring film called, “Let There Be Light,” about a family challenged by the death of a child, divorce, addiction, a mother with brain cancer, the whole catastrophe. Near the end, building on a vision the father had during a near death experience in which he encountered his deceased son, the phrase, “let there be light” became a guiding focus. The family organized a worldwide program in which people across the globe would turn on the flashlight function of their cellphones in a progressive fashion. Viewed from space, this wave of light was a profound inspirational and spiritual experience that occurred just as the mother passed away from her illness.

Just so, the holiday season invites us to be generous and kind to each other at the darkest time of the year. Let us commit to maintain that spirit of light and love throughout the year, providing an antidote to darkness and chaos. Let there be light.

Dr. Victor S. Sierpina is the WD and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine at UTMB.

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