Ever heard the phrase ‘brighten the corner where you are.’? Well, I have – many times actually. The phrase is carried in the chorus of my favourite childhood song. It is a phrase that carries much significance, motivation and has great meaning for me. But first, allow me to tell you a bit of a story from one of the most important, most profound days of my childhood.
It was a Wednesday evening, I was 7 years old, and my siblings and I were preparing for another full day at school. All of a sudden, we heard trickles of water on the roof – it had begun to rain. With thunder and lightning following, it became quite clear that a storm was upon us. Severe gusts of wind swirled violently around the house, even ripping the roots of a new tree out of the ground. We heard a rapturous noise as the tree fell, then the electricity to the whole was knocked out.
My sister scrambled in the dark to find badly needed candles and matchstick. My little brother, very much scared, began to cry. Though very much scared myself, I decided to act tough -to act like the ‘brave big boy’ who wasn’t afraid of the dark. God knows I was frightened out of my skin by the darkness. And God wasn’t the only one who knew – my big brother did too. Sensing my almost palpable fear, my brother suggested that we sing my favourite song; ‘brighten the corner where you are.’
The power to act
When we had finished singing my brother posed one of the most significant questions that anyone has posed to me since. He said, “do you know why it is important to brighten the corner where you are?” ‘Not really’, I said, ‘maybe it’s a way to prevent the dark?’ Laughing at my answer he replied:
‘Yes, but in addition to that, you should brighten the corner because only you can do that. Only you have the power to truly change the things around you. The power to act rests with you and is in you. So whenever you find yourself in a dark place, always remember that you can brighten the corner where you are.’
Only you have the power to truly change the things around you.
My brother David died in December of 1998 after a short battle with Lukemia – God rest his soul. Though I am most unfortunate to no longer have the benefit of his company, the words he uttered have remained with me and will remain with me forever. Very few more profound words of motivation have been spoken to me since that night. I assume fewer profound words will be spoken still.
As the years wore on from that stormy night, and more so in the years following his death, I have continually reflected on my brother’s words. They became almost like a guide to me – especially in times when I found myself in extremely difficult situations. As I have reflected, my thoughts have expanded, and I have built on the very significant points my brother made that night.
I have come to realise that my brother spoke beyond my fears of the dark that evening. He spoke to my helplessness. Like I was that evening, we all get to points in life when we are frozen in action. Either because we are afraid to take the steps we know we ought to take to progress in our careers or education, or that we lack the conviction to move ahead to do the things we know will bring us progress.
If we fear to fail, we will fail to act.
I was paralysed by fear that night, to the point where I couldn’t continue my preparation for school, even with candle light. For too many of us, fear is the source of all our procrastination and our lack of conviction and will. Some of us are afraid that we may fail, some of us fear that we may not have what it takes to take the next step. If we fear to fail, we will fail to act.
Action is that which has characterised every single record of achievement that you admire.
Think of all the great people that you have ever admired; politicians, bankers, entertainers, athletes etc. They achieved because they acted. Did they sometimes fail? Yeah sure! Were they at times fearful about the outcome of their endeavours? Definitely! But did they continue to act nonetheless? They sure did. That’s why we admire someone like Abraham Lincoln, who sought public office 7 consecutive times without success, yet still persevered to the Presidency. That’s why we admire men like Michael Jordan, who though was cut out of his high school basketball team, went on to become the greatest basketball player of all time.
What am I saying? Never be afraid to act – keep on going. Yes, you may not get that job on the first try, and that professional exam may have gone horribly even on the second or third try. Keep going! The more you act, the closer you are to progress – and perhaps you are even closer now than you think. History is not written for those who wait, rest, and wish to look behind them. It is written for those who move forward.
As the great Thomas Payne once said;
‘we have it within our power to make the world over again.’
Light your own candle
On that stormy Wednesday night, I sat down paralysed in darkness wishing that the lights will come on. Too many of us are sitting and wishing. Wishing that somehow everything were easier, wishing that we had what it takes. Just like me on that night, the truth is you have what it takes to brighten the corner where you are.
We were all brought into this world for a purpose, and there is a difference to be made that only we can make. There are things to be done for, and in this world, that only we can carry out. There is change to be made that only we can make. This world is full of many scary and dark things, but we have much to achieve.
So whenever you feel helpless, and in a dark place, just remember that you can always brighten your corner.’
‘It is far better to light a candle, than sit and curse the dark.’
As President Kennedy once said, ‘it is far better to light a candle, than sit and curse the dark.’ So go on and light your own candle. On this day, at this stage in your life, and for all the days to come, my brother’s motivation to you is simply this; stop wishing, stop fearing, and start doing.