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A little cleaning lets more light shine

Posted: October 27, 2012 - 11:01pm

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

– Matthew 5:16

In 1971, when my husband’s military assignment changed from Vietnam to Fort Gordon, our reunited family was about to move into our first-ever newly built home. I had been to Georgia a few months earlier, found a nearly completed house in the Idylwilde Subdivision in Evans, and had the pleasure of making all the interior décor decisions myself. That was another first for me.

My head was a-whirl as I chose paint, floor coverings, appliances and my favorite: light fixtures for the entire house. Though constrained by thrift and budget, I couldn’t resist a beautiful 52-prism chandelier for the dining room, definitely another first. In the homes of my youth, we were lucky if our hanging light bulbs even had shades.

For more than a decade, that chandelier brightened every event within its rays – until changes in the family required another move. Our now grown sons had homes of their own, and my husband’s military retirement coincided with the decision to go our separate ways. Though I much preferred an intact family, the house was mine for as long as I wished. But eight rooms were more than I needed, and I put the house up for sale.

I found a smaller, new townhouse, which I prayed would still be available when my house sold. Miraculously, the first person who saw the house bought it that very day. Furthermore, within days, my buyer’s house also sold, setting up three swift and simultaneous moves.

When I examined the light fixture in my new dining area, I felt a lump in my throat. Among the things I would miss in my old house was that chandelier. This light just didn’t match the furnishings or my taste.

How could I have known? The lady who bought my house had a chandelier she loved as much as I loved mine. So, with her buyer’s permission, we were able to shift all three lights, she and I taking our fixtures with us, and her buyers putting the one from my townhouse into their new house. Having that familiar light in my new home helped shed the sadness brought on by the changed contours of my life.

Fast-forward nearly three decades to a visit from my brother and his wife a couple of months ago. We were sitting at the dining room table when my sister-in-law looked at the chandelier and said, “You know, you can wash those prisms in the dishwasher.”

I added the years: 1971 to 2012. Except for having cobwebs removed, that light had not been thoroughly cleaned in 41 years!

As soon as my company left, I climbed onto a chair, unhooked all 52 prisms, placed them carefully in the dishwasher, and ran their first-ever bath.

Do you have any idea how long that took, or how many times I burned my fingers because I had to have the light on to see what I was doing? And that was nothing compared to the time it took to put them all back onto their tiny little hooks after they cooled and dried. It was a full day’s work.

The next morning when I turned on the light, I almost needed sunglasses to lessen the glare. I had no idea what a difference a simple cleaning would make in the brightness of that chandelier, or how much light was lost from years of built-up smudge and grime on those now-gleaming prisms.

I didn’t mean for this story to go on so long. I just thought it would be a unique way to address the ever-present topic of the day, the upcoming election. Perhaps my idea is so unique no one will get it, but I can think of a number of analogies between cleaning my chandelier and that little song we learned in Sunday School, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine….” at this critical time in our nation’s history.

Compare the smudge and grime to the dulled opinions many of us have held, and ask if those views could stand an update or a new shine. Or how about the neglect to study, the need to examine our choices more closely, or the duty to consider the effect our voting habits have on our towns, state and nation? Is it possible to become so accustomed to “our party line, our way of thinking” that, like my grimy chandelier, we don’t see the dirt anymore?

Perhaps you get the point. But my prayer for this election is that we will become wiser voters than we’ve ever been before and, like the song and the (above) verse suggest, let our nation’s light shine so the now-dulled view of America from across the world, the nation or the aisle will again reflect that heavenly purpose once envisioned by our nation’s founders for this beloved land.

(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer and author of the book, As Long As the Rivers Run: Highlights from Columbia County’s Past. Email comments to seabara@aol.com.)

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