Service of Lit Candles
May 28th, 2013
Disasters, disease, misfortune, war, rampant selfishness and news of criminals in all industries are enough to turn the most passionate optimist into a cynic. It’s easy to get stuck in negativity and hopelessness. Fortunately there are talented, inspired people who tirelessly buck the deluge. Organizations such as The Christophers and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra are two.
I’ve written several times about The Christophers–I help promote its annual awards about this time of year. If at 5 a.m. you’re tuned to 710 WOR AM radio in NYC you hear Tony Rossi, the organization’s director of communications, share the Christopher Minute he writes. In addition to these segments, that also play around the country, and the awards, the charity’s publishing and leadership programs are inspired by the ancient Chinese proverb—“It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”
This year 19 feature films, TV/Cable programs, and books for adults and young people won Christopher Awards. “The creative forces behind the projects we’re honoring are improving our culture by telling stories that awaken hope instead of despair, acknowledge the necessity of sacrifice in the service of a greater good,” said Rossi.
The books for children tackled sophisticated, tough, grownup subjects. In “Forever You: A Book About Your Soul and Body,” (Pauline Books and Media), Nicole Lataif tells children as young as pre Kindergarten what it means to be fully human and about building character. Jo S. Kittinger describes the loss and shock so many children face when they have to move to unsavory living quarters when their family has lost their home or a parent a job. In “House on Dirty-Third Street,” (Peachtree Publishers), the community helps the child and her mother rebuild. In another book a bullied fifth grader with a facial deformity learns to appreciate the gifts he brings to the world in R.J. Palacio’s “Wonder,” (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House Children’s Books). Palacio called it a “meditation on kindness.”
Three of the books in the adult category address autism, Alzheimer’s and drug abuse. “Carly’s Voice,” (Touchstone Books/Simon & Schuster), by Arthur Fleischmann and his autistic daughter Carly reveals their family’s astonishing journey from believing Carly would never develop intellectually beyond the abilities of a small child to her current status as a smart, perceptive and funny high school student.
Eric Blehm shares the troubled life and heroic death of Navy SEAL Adam Brown, whose early life was derailed by drug abuse before family, faith and the U.S. military gave him the courage and strength to fight his inner demons. His book: “Fearless,” (Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group/Random House).
While dealing with her father’s descent into Alzheimer’s, author/journalist and Catholic television network EWTN broadcaster Colleen Carroll Campbell demonstrates the modern relevance of saints like Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux in her quest to find personal fulfillment and professional success in her spiritual autobiography, “My Sisters the Saints,” (Image Books/Random House). Starting this summer Campbell will be anchor of “EWTN News Nightly with Colleen Carroll Campbell,” the global network’s first-ever daily newscast.
The Christophers celebrate hope in books and film while the Argentinean-born Daniel Barenboim turns to music to shed light on peace. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra [photo right] that the Jewish conductor and pianist co-founded in 1999 with [the late] Edward Said, a Palestinian scholar, is scheduled for a seven city European tour starting in July.
Wrote Anthony Tomassini of the orchestra originally made up of young musicians from Israel, Palestine and various Arab countries of the Middle East: “The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra takes its name from a book of poetry by Goethe exploring the concept of world culture. In 2002 the orchestra, adopted by the Andalusian government in Spain and a private foundation, set up its summer headquarters in Seville. Since then a number of European players, especially from Spain, have taken part.”
Continued The New York Times critic: “From the project’s start, Said, who died in 2003, and Mr. Barenboim made no great claims for the transformative potential of the orchestra. But dialogue is a precondition to understanding. And dialogue is unavoidable when young musicians play music and live together.”
Do you believe that light–as small as that shed by one candle or the synergy among musicians in a single orchestra–will overcome darkness? Can you share the names of other organizations in the business of hope?