It was the first day of winter, the calendar date with the shortest amount of daylight every year. At 6:30 p.m. it was already dark, icy and cold outside. Yet, I was lucky enough to be walking into the warmth of a building that was filled with light and the comforting smell of soup and bread.
Upon entering this sanctuary, my lungs filled with satisfaction and I slipped quietly into a seat in front of a small stage filled with people. I recognized every one of them. They were my neighbors and they were looking intently at my friend Shelly Dahl, their conductor.
This night Shelly was leading many of our friends as they participated as members of our neighborhood choir and orchestra. Such gatherings have been a wonderful highlight in my life on two other occasions.
The first was in a high desert town in California’s Mojave Desert when a small group of us gathered to share our meager food supply and dance to the hypnotic music of a single harmonica played by our friend from Rockville, Utah.
The second was in a desert north of the Empty Quarter, on the Arabian Peninsula, where a different group of us, homesick Americans and Europeans, had gotten together to share food and talent. We listened to amazing instrumentals, sang, and laughed until our sides split. It was another memorable night in the desert.
On this new night, in the high desert of northern Utah, as soon as I looked toward Shelly, I had the feeling I was also looking forward to a third wonderful highlight in my life. Shelly’s orchestra and choir members were made up of children and teenagers with a sprinkling of seasoned gray hairs. These individuals all became one as they gazed at their leader. Their sight was forward fixed on their conductor with a purpose: to change a night of cold darkness into joy, light and warmth.
The planned transformation began immediately as they performed. You see, Shelly is a “Keeper of the Flame.” She has the ability to recognize the light inside of others, uncover it and draw it out. She sees a flame that most people can’t see. Yet, she instinctively knows how to kindle it, stoke it, and make the flame dance. You know what I mean. Who hasn’t stared at a fire’s flame and been comforted, transfixed by its beauty? The firelight Shelly drew from our neighbors was engulfing and caused me to be comforted, mesmerized and transformed.
In days past, society designated at least one person to hold an essential and special position as Keeper of the Flame to keep the community’s firelight active. Sadly, we don’t have such a designation today. Yet, at an early 6:30 in the evening on the darkest day of the year, when it was icy and cold outside, I could see that we still have at least one. My neighborhood has Shelly My dear friend. My neighbor. My neighborhood’s Keeper of the Flame!
What could you and I do to become Keepers of the Flame?
Lynn Butterfield lives in Erda and is a managing broker for a real estate company.