What Do You Have To Lose?

James Keller is credited with saying “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” A very simple yet profound statement…wouldn’t you agree? It’s a neat metaphor that makes the thoughtful correlation between a candle’s physical ability of sharing it’s fire and light without losing or taking anything away from itself and the intellectual, spiritual and physical implications of you and I when we share our light and fire with others.

Like the burning of a candle, it’s quite true that WE lose absolutely nothing by sharing our fire (energy, zest, enthusiasm) and our light (love, empathy, grace and wisdom) with other people. Actually, I believe, the more caring, loving, encouraging, insightful, enthusiastic, positive, honest and transparent we are with others the…more enriching our lives actually become.

When we take the time to share our God given resources and gifts with others such as our time, our money, our wisdom, our patience, our forgiveness and or our love…it’s amazing what we gain in return. And yet, it seemingly, goes against everything we are typically taught in this world that says we must take in order to achieve but the real secret and truth of life is that when we share or give up of ourselves for others…we actually gain much more than we could ever give up.

There are moments in life when we share our love, grace, wisdom, encouragement and or our forgiveness that, ultimately, has the power to change the trajectory of another person’s life and we may never know we did it. I know because I’ve experienced it first hand.

My freshman year in high school I had the honor of being captain of my ninth grade football team. That year, I made the transition from middle school into high school quite easily and was making many friends. During that football season, lifelong, friendships were being forged and a group of us would always meet up after third period and rotate turns buying each other a snack at the vending machines. It was great because three days out of the five I would hang with my new friends and get a soda or something paid for by one of them. Which was all well and good until it was my turn to buy.

Once my summer lawn mowing money ran out I found myself in an awful predicament…I could no longer afford buying snacks for other people. The dreaded day came when it fell on me to buy snacks for my friends, however, I was completely broke. While sitting in my third period class with only 25 minutes left before meeting up at the vending machines my stomach was in knots. My mind was racing. How could I handle this embarrassment? What would my friends think of me? I had benefited all week from our agreed upon arrangement and now it was my turn and I couldn’t follow through with my obligation. I was sick to my stomach. The pressure and stigma of being exposed as someone who didn’t have money was seemingly too much for me to bare. 20 minutes left. I had an idea…it was a bad one but it was an idea nonetheless.

I asked for the hall pass to use the restroom and ran to the boy’s locker room…surely I could find some money there. I quietly walked in and began looking through lockers. The sound of the creaking lockers echoed against the empty open showering area and mingled with silence and the dripping water. The third locker I opened I found a pair of jeans hanging up and quickly rummaged through the pockets. Yureka! I found a handful of coins and it would be plenty to purchase snacks for me and my friends. I quickly shut the locker and started to head back to my classroom when the Physical Education Teacher and JV football coach opened his office door and caught me read handed. I stopped in my tracks with the coins burning in a fist of clenched fingers. The look of surprise meshing with disappointment on his face was enough to make my entire body burn with shame and guilt. “Jason…not you.” His words singed my soul and my eyes began to sting with tears.

Stealing at my high school carried the penalty of expulsion and if you were playing a team sport you were no longer eligible to participate. Coach Collins new what he had to do. He had to march me down to the Principal’s office and let the system and its process work its way through. But instead he said “Jason I’m so disappointed in you. Jesus, I know you’re better than this. I know things are tough for you but YOU’RE a good kid. You’re better than this, Jason.” I couldn’t speak. “Jesus, you’re captain of the freshman football team. More is required of you. You can’t go down this path!” He began to raise his voice. His lips quivered with emotion as the disappointment collided with an internal dilemma. He made his decision in a flash. “Now put that damn money back in those pants! Don’t ever do anything like this again! You’re better than this! Now get out of my face!”

I put the money back as fast as I could. The bell was about to ring and I ran off weighted down with whale-size guilt, shame and remorse. I ran down the hall but then stopped. I started to cry. I, immediately, turned around and ran back to the locker room. “Mr. Collins? Coach?” I said. He was sitting at his desk, his face was flushed. “I’m really sorry. I will never ever do anything like this again. Thank you. I promise…I never will.” He looked at me and nodded his head and exhaled deeply. “Jason, just remember, you’re better than this moment.” At the time I wasn’t really convinced that I was, in fact, better than this moment but he believed I was…and that resonated deep within me.

Mr. Collins could have made an example out of me. He could have gotten me expelled and kicked off the football team. He could have told my football coach but he didn’t. He kept that moment between us for the rest of my high school years and never mentioned it to me. He shared with me his grace and forgiveness all the while encouraging me to be a better man. He shared with me his fire that said he believed in me, despite my shortcomings. He lost nothing of himself by lifting me up in that difficult dark moment. And in doing so…in that very moment, he lit something in me. Through his example he showed me the power of mercy and the beauty of grace. Thirty-three years later it is something I have never forgotten and never will.

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”

Through my high school years I flourished in football and helped our team win a state championship. I captained the varsity football team my senior year and never forgot the incredible gift that Mr. Collins gave me that fateful day in that locker room. When I graduated from college and ended up teaching and coaching at my old high school, Mr. Collins was still there. He would often pull me aside and smile and say he was proud of me and that he was right all along — I “WAS” better than that moment. I remember telling him I didn’t know if I was…but I sure tried to be after that day. I could have gone down many paths as a kid but through his kindness and grace, I believe that that moment literally changed the trajectory of my life.

The fact is, we all have that power, that innate ability to share our grace, to believe in someone even when they have disappointed us. The beauty is, in doing so, we just never really know how that act of forgiveness will impact or change a person for the better. So, in sharing our love, our light, our grace, what do we have to lose?

You are a light. You have a fire. Share it with the people around you. You will lose nothing but you will surely gain everything. Many Blessings! ~Jason

“A single candle can fight against any darkness and light up a room. Its glow can be seen for miles in the gloom of dusk. A single candle can comfort our spirit in a storm as its flame tangos with the shadows and flickers with resilient hopes. A single candle can show us the way simply by standing by our side. A single candle can inspire nostalgia and warm our very souls. So too — can a single person.Burn bright today.” ― Jason Versey, A Walk with Prudence