‘This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…’ mama sang to me every night as she tucked me in. Every single night for as long as I still felt like a little child that needed my mother’s protection, she sang that song to me and I always slept off listening to her sweet and delicate voice.
‘This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…’ mama would sing so joyfully. She believed those words and because of her, I believed I had lights that could shine and needed to shine.
‘You are kind. You are beautiful. You are worthy. You are perfect,’ mama said to me for many years as she tried to make my stubborn hair look less stubborn. She would look at me with so much love as she repeated those words to me till I started to believe them.
I am kind. I am beautiful. I am worthy. I am perfect.
When I turned 18, I stopped being mama’s little girl. I would shut her up with my eyes whenever she tried to sing the song that I went to bed hearing many nights. I was no longer naïve, I thought. I had seen the world and I doubt whether I have lights now. And even if I do, I doubt my light is strong enough to shine through the layers of darkness that can drown it without much effort.
When I turned 30 and had a good job and a life I felt was good enough, my world crumbled. My mother who still tried to say those powerful words, the words I turned a deaf ear to told me she was dying. A few months later, I sat by the hospital bed she occupied, held her hand and listened to her sweet voice as she sang to me. ‘This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine’.
‘Let your light shine baby. Listen, you are enough. Stop waiting for the right time for your light to shine. Now is the time, baby. Right Now!’
‘You are kind. You are beautiful. You are worthy. You are perfect.’ Those were her last words to me before she died.
Now, do you understand why I will no longer allow you put me down? Do you understand why I will stop waiting for you before I let my light shine as if I need your permission? Do you understand why I will stop believing your words that I am not enough and why I will no longer feel guilty for wanting more out of life. I should feel guilty for not wanting more. Do you understand why I will believe my mama’s words instead?
Do you understand?
Neither you nor society can and should define my worth. I can’t keep allowing my failures to determine my worth. I can’t keep waiting for others to be kind to me before I am kind to others. I can’t keep thinking my lights can’t rise above the darkness, even if for one person. I can’t keep letting the fear of you and the society not accepting me stop me from fiercefully taking charge and being the girl my mama saw me as.
Why now, you may ask.
Well, it took my mother’s death for my eyes to open. And that in itself is a tragedy. Why did I have to wait till I lost her to appreciate her words! Why do we always take what and who we have for granted till we lose them? Why? Why do we get so used to someone and their words that we fail to see and appreciate their value and the force behind those words?
My mother’s death opened my eyes and she reminded me that it’s not too late to start. It will never be too late to let your light shine. You can do Small Great Things.
I am kind. I am beautiful. I am worthy. I am perfect. The days I don’t feel like I am any of those words, I will remember that my mama said them to me even when she probably felt mad at me and felt I didn’t want to hear those words. She said them to me regardless because they are the truth and she never allowed her feelings drown out the truth.
So, even when I don’t feel like it, I will say to myself: I am kind. I am beautiful. I am worthy. I am perfect.
And when my little ones come, I will sing to them just like my mama sang to me. I will drum the words she drummed into my ear into theirs. And I will hope with all my heart that they don’t let a tragedy be the one to wake them up and remind them that they have lights that need to shine.3