Just after my divorce, I was living in a small, one-room apartment in an “iffy” section of Orange County, California. The rent was more than my previous house payment and I’d just started a new job, so I had very little money…particularly for decorating. I had a basic futon which doubled as a sofa and my bed. I bought a vintage "secretary" at a thrift store for $35; I used the drawers for clothes and the top for my papers. (I still have the desk, which I've refinished and continue to use!) I had pictures of my kids and friends in K-Mart frames. Of course, I had books--displayed on an IKEA bookcase. And on several of the shelves, I had some inexpensive candles, to add a touch of color to the drab room.
One day a friend came over before a group of us headed out to a movie. He was perusing my books, then pointed to one of the candles.
“This is dusty,” he noted casually.
I was taken aback, and more than a bit embarrassed.
“My cleaning lady is off,” I retorted.
“No, I mean you’re letting them get dirty. They may look pretty up there on the shelf, but that’s not their primary purpose, and you are depriving yourself of the wonderful benefits. Candles provide light. They give us warmth. Candles illuminate and inspire. They brighten our mood and add fragrance to our surroundings. You should never a candle sit and gather dust.”
Then he gave me a huge smile and said with such joyful sincerity, “Sweetie, burn the candles! That’s why they were created.”
I guess I don't need to put on my old preacher hat to make a wonderful analogy to the story; it's an obvious lesson we can all take to heart.
And I did!
In both the figurative and the literal sense of his words.
To this day, I make it a point to have candles burning in our house. I don’t buy the really expensive, designer ones…but I keep at least one going almost all the time...even when I’m alone during the day. In the evenings, I love to turn off the lights and enjoy the soft glow of a few candles burning in the den. I can become mesmerized watching the reflections dancing on the wall as the flame flickers.
The candles remind me that we have the power to illuminate and inspire. We can project light where there is none. We can brighten the mood of those shrouded in darkness.
That's our purpose.
That's our design.
My dear friend is gone now. But I think of him often, and remember his wise advice.
There are times, when I light that wick, I can still hear his perky, joyful voice: “Burn the candles, sweetie!”