Children are born to bring light into the world.
They bring other things, too --worry and fear and hopes and dreams and total exhaustion.
But mostly, they bring light.
I was reminded of that recently by my grandson. But I learned it from my brother.
My mother was always busy. She worked hard to put food on our table. I knew having a baby would give her less time for me. So when she brought him home from the hospital and plopped him in my lap, I said, “Can’t you give him back?”
“No,” she said, “he’s staying.”
That’s when it happened. I poked his belly and he grabbed my finger and refused to let go.
He was little, but he was strong — so strong it made me laugh. And suddenly the room filled with light. I don’t mean it seemed to do that. I mean, for me, my brother made the world a brighter, better place.
Is that hard to believe? Look around you. The world is ablaze with people who shine. You just might be one of them.
Months later, we learned my brother was blind. Doctors said he would never see. But they didn’t know Joe. All the things that he would never see with his eyes, he saw clearly with his heart and his soul. He made me see them, too. He still does.
When my children were born, I knew the moment I held them that they were a gift sent to shine light in my life.
More than anyone — even more than my brother — they each in their own ways have brightened my days and taught me things I needed to know.
Sometimes those were things I never hoped to learn: How to put someone else’s needs and wants before my own; how to forego sleep, food, friends and personal hygiene for more days than I care to admit; how to hold a screaming toddler for a dozen stitches in the ER, and not fall apart until we got home and he was sound asleep.
They taught me patience and perseverance and humility and how to pray long and hard, like I had never prayed before.
But mostly they lit up my life.
They still do — they and the people they’ve married and the grandchildren they’ve given me. They light me up like Christmas.
That is what children, young and old, are meant to do.
No matter how we know them — by birth or adoption or teaching or coaching or just being a good neighbor who doesn’t yell if their baseball smashes your begonias — children shine light in the lives of all who care for them. Some of them keep shining forever, even when they’re old.
My 7-year-old grandson, Henry, is a very old soul.
“Nana,” he said recently, “want to see my stick dance? I made it up myself.”
“Sure,” I said. “Let’s see it.”
“First, I take a stick,” he said, “and I throw it up in the air.”
He grabbed a stick, flung it high and danced around to catch it. When he missed, I bit my lip to keep from laughing.
Three times he tossed it. Three times he missed. On the fourth try he caught it and beamed.
“Did you see that?” he said.
“Yep!” I said. “You caught it!”
“But did you see what it did?” he asked. “Watch me again.”
I watched him two more times. But all I saw was a little boy making his nana stifle a laugh.
Finally, he explained. “It’s a special stick,” he said. “When I throw it in the sky, it brings light down to the world.”
A hummingbird darted by and zig-zagged around his head.
“I don’t know about that stick, Henry,” I said, “but I think you’re pretty special.”
He gave me a hug. “I think that’s why I’m here, Nana, to bring light into the world.”
I looked in his brown eyes. He was serious. I nodded.
“You surely bring light to my world,” I said. “Throw it again.”
So he did.