The picture of light from a single candle first entered my imagination when I was ten years old. The Santa Fe Public Library was a sanctuary. It's shelves held doors through which I could slip into worlds beyond my own. A book titled Light a Single Candle was a door through which I almost regretted walking. To this day, I can tell you little about the details of plot or theme. What I can tell you is that it was a book about a young girl who found out she was going blind. I picked the book because I saw the picture of a guide dog on the cover. Loving animals, I thought it was about the dog. It was about going blind! Fear swept over me, plunging me into a frigid, murky place. At ten, I had been wearing glasses since age seven. I feared blindness like no other lurking danger. When I next saw my eye doctor, I pleaded with him to assure me I would never go blind. He did. Once I slammed the door on that single candle book, I stopped thinking about what that title could possibly mean. Years later, I understood.
In 1972, I was diagnosed with a progressive eye disease. My vision had finally shrunk enough to merit the diagnosis, "legally blind." The fear laid to rest 12 years prior, crashed through my safe world. I was alone when I heard the word "blind" first applied to me. My tears obstructed my already blurred vision. Having faith in my memory of the route, I found my way, from the doctor's office to the Santa Fe Public Library. I sat on the little wall outside, unable to enter my sanctuary. All I could think was, "I will never see words on a page again." Impending darkness threatened to rob me of all that gave me joy. An old door opened and I remembered the words, "Light a single candle."
My faith, my husband, his family, our children, any friends and mentors lit candle after candle for me from that day forward. On that little wall outside the library, I faced a very serious choice. A Chinese proverb summarizes well the options: "It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness." My choices were either to dwell in the gloom as a victimized prisoner or start literally feeling around for candles. With some notable and dank pity detours along the way, I have imperfectly felt my way through life for more than thirty years.
As a counselor and teacher my task is to light candles. Depression, anxiety, trauma, relationship struggles, grief and loneliness are forms of darkness that impersonate blindness. Clients who seek counsel from me need only to bring a single candle and a desire to ask for a light. In a candle's glow, they can also make choices, hopefully, learning to walk more by faith than sight.