Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A Tiny Candle for the Dark

Recently at church we had a service on the subject of “the book that changed my life.”  There is a part of the service in Unitarian churches called ”The Time for All Ages”, in which the little kids gather up front and the speaker of the day tells them a wisdom story or teaches them a lesson.  My story last Sunday was of a very tiny and humble and transient book that profoundly changed my life though I’d almost forgotten it.

I don’t even know the title or if it even had a title.

From the time I was 6 years old until about 10 I was plagued by terrible dreams.  It was my greatest fear.  Looking back the nightmares seem kind of dumb, being chased around by Frankenstein and stuff, but they were scary enough.  After one of those dreams I was too terrified to go back to sleep again.  I’d lay awake all night, waiting for the dawn to come so I wouldn’t have to sleep.  I dreaded the night.  They were long nights.

I found this book in the kitchen, I suppose someone gave it to mom.  It was laying around.  You could hardly call it a book, more like a pretty little pamphlet I the shape of a book.  It was a little book, a little bitty book.   It was red, fake leather embossed, held with a single staple, and about one inch square, it could fit in a matchbox.  A tiny, tiny little excuse for a book.  It was filled with the words of Jesus and Buddha and others, talking about god and love and compassion.  No story, just their own plainly spoken words.  I could barely understand it, but the language, the sound, and the ideas spoke to me.  I continued to have my dreams, but when I woke, I could turn on the light and read this little talisman of a book and just the words and the kindness of the words dispelled these fears and I could sleep again.  This book was my friend against the dark and its terrors.  I kept it for many years and now it's lost.  I wish I had it, because there was sound magic in those pages.  It pointed me where I was going.

What I wanted to tell the kids, what I wanted them to understand is that books have their unique magic, a magic you can’t really get in a movie or a TV show or a video game.  The magic of story, yes, but also the magic of sound, the music of words, and the beauty of those musical words assuring you there is an end to the darkness, that no matter what, it’s the nature of the dark and the fear to pass away somehow.  Books, the right kind of books can do that for you.  I wanted the kids to know that.  


  1. This is what prayers and poetry have in common, the ability to comfort and cheer us with the music of words.


  2. A lovely message to share with children. I sometimes find comfort in memorized lines of poetry or psalms, which are, after all, poetry themselves.


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