It is the season of stars–the star that led the magi to the Christ child; the Star of David, central symbol of the Jewish people, which shines so brightly on the world during the celebration of Hanukkah; and the nine-pointed Baha’i star that rises a little later in the winter season, in February, during Ayyam-i-Ha, the five days of hospitality and gift-giving that precede the Baha’i fast.
Not only is it “a season to be jolly,” it is also a time to contemplate the beauty of those stars that once rose and still shine down upon us from a firmament made up of diverse religious traditions, each of which continues to bring hope and joy to the world.
At a choral concert at my daughter’s school this past week, I was reminded of those smaller, more swiftly passing stars that illuminate our daily lives when I watched the faces of 100 children light up in joyful anticipation as the hall filled with parents eager to applaud even the most modest of musical victories.
Stars–there is perhaps no place where they shine more brightly than in a school. As parents, we can’t help feeling that our children bring their own unique light to the world. But if we look with the eyes of love and vision, we see that every child has come into the world bearing a gift, like the boy who read his essay before an audience of parents at a recent speech contest at my daughter’s school.
The boy was not among the cluster of “high-performing stars” usually chosen for such honors. But, clearly, he had something important to say. The topic was the harmful effects of alcohol and tobacco, and the child spoke feelingly about it. His knowledge seemed to come from the heart, not the head. The fire of his enthusiasm set the audience ablaze, and even though he came at the end of a long program, the applause he received was the loudest and the longest.
The boy’s words and the spirit in which he offered them attracted our hearts. He inspired us, and we loved him for it. We allowed him to become a star, and he responded by beaming his light on us. And by choosing to celebrate this boy, a boy who took life differently from the others, a boy whose openness and sincerity reminded us of what it means to be a child during this season of light, the school shone too.
The week before the essay contest, my daughter brought home her report card. She had done well, and we were proud of her, especially since she had worked hard, motivated by the desire to achieve excellence and not by any promise of reward from us, her parents. I thought of some of the other children, those who had taken home less than glowing report cards. How had they been received? I wondered if the parents of those children had the good sense to recognize that the light of brilliance manifests itself in diverse ways, not only though abstract thought and reasoning, but through caring, creating, believing.
In this season whose days are the darkest of year, at this dark moment of our history, there is light–the light of each child, whether academically, emotionally, or spiritually gifted. Each child is luminous, a star. Each one is, potentially, a beacon lighting the path ahead as we choose between hope and desolation in the twentieth-first century.
On these cold nights of December, I am reminded of this truth when my daughter pulls up the bed covers and recites her favorite Baha’i prayer for children, “O God, guide me, protect me, make of me a shining lamp and a brilliant star.”
As parents, as teachers, as community members, let us be sure in this season of light to celebrate each child as a star with his or her own unique light to cast upon the world. Look. There’s a whole firmament up there. And room for everyone.