Colored Lights and Clear Lights

My college roommate and I decided to decorate our dormitory bedroom. We thought that colored lights would be perfect. But having none, we painted all of our light bulbs red. When we switched the lights back on, the room shone with a dark and eerie blood-red glow.

I learned a couple of things about painted light bulbs that semester. I learned, first, that one can’t study by eerie, red lighting. Not that studying was the highest priority for college freshmen, but the dark red bulbs were more of a distraction than an aid.And very quickly I learned something else. Paint burns. Smoke from our lamps and lighting fixtures sent us outside gasping for breath.

Tinted bulbs may be nice to look at, but they don’t cast much light. We string colored lights as decoration. They are designed to call attention to themselves, but never to light a room. We might say, “Aren’t they pretty?” Or we may say, “I see flashing colored lights behind my car!” But we do not use them to illumine an area.

Clear lights, on the other hand, show off all that is nearby. We may aim a directional light at a wall and exclaim, “What a lovely painting!” Or we might switch on the lights in our home and comment, “What a dirty bedroom.” Clear lights illumine the world around them.

I wonder if people are like lights, too. Some seem to be colored lights and draw attention to themselves. Others, the clear lights, seem to shine on people in their midst.

We may say of one, “Isn’t she smart? She always astounds me with her brilliance.” And of another we might say, “I always feel better when he is around. He seems to know me. And he believes in me.”

It is as if one shines so brilliantly that the room is filled with a colorful, dazzling glow. But the other shines on those nearby, clearly illuminating their goodness and virtues.

If I am to be a light in this world, I think I’ll lose the paint. Clear lights are best.

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