58 Let There Be Light

Megan Waterston

To my family for their unconditional love.

Keywords: Graciousness, Benevolence, Inspiration, Aid, Uplifting

The overwhelming heartbreak and heaviness that is so deeply ingrained in our lives causes us to believe there is no brightness and joy beyond the horizon of our present pain. Such despair places blinders around our eyes, preventing us from seeing our reality in full. These barriers deceive us and cause us to believe that delight and renewal could not possibly exist beyond such intimidating walls. I certainly find myself spiraling into despondency due to agonizing feelings more than I would like to admit. However, others who have been able to dismantle distress and dwell in felicity can help others live in similar freedom. When individuals hold a light, which may be described as a spirit of altruism, love, graciousness, and intentional actions of generosity towards the most vulnerable, the possessor of the light has the power to truly change the recipients’ lives for the better (“Light”). Expressions of generosity are rhetorical because they have the ability to persuade other people to look at their lives differently. Additionally, such expressions help assuage the trauma and trying circumstances others have endured. Those wishing to express care towards other people should be mindful that their audience may or may not be receptive their kindness. However, goodwill impacts others’ lives in meaningful ways regardless of their apparent reaction to charity. I begin by explaining specific ways in which people who serve their communities support and comfort children, trafficked individuals, and leaders themselves through acting as a light towards these populations. Next, I speak about a speech which both substantiates and negates the power of another’s kindness and charitable presence. I close with a final note regarding the sheer power “being a light” toward other people has on the lives of the beneficiaries.


Those who maintain a helpful disposition and act upon their natural inclination can miraculously transform other’s poverty into prosperity. In her article, “The effects of a merciful heart: Children and Charity in Malaysia,” Silvia Vignato addresses the idea of acting as a light. Vignato speaks about the life-giving impact compassionate, loving, and selfless volunteer workers have on children in Malaysia who are dependent on their foster care guardians (Vignato 85). The author also mentions that Malaysians highly revere hospitality and charity– something they are taught individually from their childhood and exercise throughout their lives (89-90). A common theme Vignato found within the responses of volunteers within multiple Malaysian homes when asked about their motivation behind serving children, was that their desire “came ‘from their heart’” (90). The spirit of giving within these individuals illustrates the ways in which light as mercy and graciousness effectively aids people in need. All the wealth, resources, and connections that caretakers of defenseless Malaysian children possess are typically given to them at no cost, as the caregivers anticipate no compensation (99). This is true to the point where Ganisma, a woman who used to participate in social work and manage a children’s home, explained that girls for whom she tended left without warning at times (87, 99). There is no transgression in this reality because Ganisma and countless others provide charity to youth in need because their love is truly without bounds (99). Though some adolescents may flee from their foster homes with apathy, the outpouring of care and provision from women like Ganisma nevertheless improved the children’s lives, as their primary needs were met at all times. Not even a relationship or bond with their caretakers was required of them (99).


Furthermore, it only takes one or two individuals to make the decision to actively shed light on the urgent need to stop human trafficking through willful acts of charity, awareness, and intervention to directly influence timeliness in missions to free captive humans from bondage. Sallie Yea discusses volunteers’ reasons for doing their part to end the absolute atrocity of human trafficking in “Helping from home: Singaporean youth volunteers with migrant‐rights and human‐trafficking NGOs in Singapore.” Yea’s piece details the ways in which individuals shed light on such deep and horrifying human rights violations, in addition to how a singular person can restore others’ dignity and entire sense of security. Yea describes volunteer efforts of women like Sharron, an honors university student, who takes the time to speak with migrant workers about their experiences in Singapore. In turn, Sharron shares her findings with the NGO for which she works (Yea 174). Additionally, Naz, another university student, uncovered the reality of human trafficking in her very own country, which inspired her to contribute to efforts to end modern day slavery (174-175).


Moreover, people who are inclined to eradicate the hardship humanitarian crises cause will do everything it takes to support those in dire need, even if it means offending their loved ones and places their own livelihoods at risk. Singaporean volunteers involved in migrant rights efforts withhold their work from their families and job applications because some Singaporeans prefer to deny their nation’s failures. Despite such resistance from his own family, individuals like Ben, a volunteer in his twenties, nonetheless teams up with Transit Workers Count Too (TWC2) in the fight to provide migrant laborers with fair salaries and work licenses (175). Sharmi, a law student, decided not to include her work with TWC2 on her CV because it would hinder her chances of a being hired by a firm (175). The deep triangular tension amongst volunteers, beneficiaries, and external influences illustrates the extent to which volunteers care about their work. Volunteers like Ben and Sharmi are truly pouring into NGOs against human trafficking because they believe in the cause and they care about every person’s right to truly live.


Additionally, it is essential for leaders themselves to be empowered by others’ generosity and light so they in turn can show similar compassion towards their mentees. Through the simple act of providing basic emotional support and care, leaders’ counterparts are able to help in completely reshaping their attitudes toward their jobs and families to aspects of their lives that are fulfilling, not cumbersome and stressful. In “‘You just appreciate every little kindness’: Chinese language teachers’ wellbeing in the UK,” several members of the English department at the University of Graz illustrate the ways in which international teachers value kindness from others as they encounter trials while working in a foreign country (Jin et al. 1-12). When the school colleagues and external support systems acted with empathy and built strong relationships with Chinese as a foreign language (CFL) teachers, the educators were relieved of their weighty burnout (4-6).

In an engaging TED Talk, “The Power of Kindness,” Raegan Hill describes benevolence as a common thread of humanity through expanding on the small, yet life-changing impact of good deeds. She addresses the ways in which other’s minuscule actions, or lack thereof, have the power to completely change the trajectory of someone’s day or week. Hill does so through addressing irksome instances that can completely throw off someone’s day, especially when she is already feeling bad. Such examples include another’s failure to express gratitude towards door holders and when people “stand too close to you in an elevator” (3:40-3:42). Therefore, when we make the conscious effort to show consideration towards strangers in the little things, we add links to the ever-growing chain of altruism in our communities which can be used to, metaphorically, pull up our neighbors out of a pit we may not even know they were in.


Alternatively, we can marginalize and restrict our acquaintances with this figurative chain link, as described through Hill’s examples of everyday annoyances.  Hill also speaks about the ways in which we as individuals can act as our own cheerleaders, mentors, and lights to gain a healthy outlook on our personal lives. The side effect of personal happiness due to generosity is harmless as long as the recipient is assuredly taken care of and prioritized. According to an Emory University study, when people show kindness to others, “the reward and pleasure centers of their brains [light] up as if they were receiving the act of kindness” (2:10-2:22). Such scientific realities may diminish the full significance of being a light to other people, as serving others can actually be more egocentric than charitable. Though the sender of kind acts may experience a serotonin high while showing graciousness towards others, this is not an inherently bad outcome as long as the giver is contributing her goodwill with pure intentions of uplifting others. We, as humans, can only control but a fraction of our brain’s natural reactions to our own actions and external stimuli.


Reliance. Perseverance. Magnanimity. Nobility. Catharsis. These characteristics encapsulate the virtue and vitality of Ganisma, Sharron, Naz, Ben, Sharmi, and countless others who choose light each day. The truth is, we all naturally have the honorable qualities of these individuals, but it is their application of such virtues which so magnificently transformed vulnerable people’s lives. You, too, can help a victim become a victor. All it takes is an ounce of conviction and courage—faith the size of a mustard seed— to shine light and its infinite scintillating forms in and all around you.


Works Cited


Hill, Reagan. “The Power of Kindness.” TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, TEDxDeerfield. February 2018, https://www.ted.com/talks/raegan_hill_the_power_of_kindness.

Jin, Jun. Mercer. Sarah. Babic, Sonja. Mairitsch, Astrid. “‘You Just Appreciate Every Little Kindness’: Chinese Language Teachers’ Wellbeing in the UK.” System, vol. 96, 2021, pp. 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2020.102400. Accessed 22 February 2021.

“Light.” Merriam-Webster, 2021, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/light. Accessed February 22, 2021.

Vignato, Silvia. “The Effects of a Merciful Heart: Children and Charity in Malaysia,” South East Asia Research, vol. 26, no. 1, 2018, pp. 85-102, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0967828X18755153. Accessed 22 February 2021.

Yea, Sallie. “Helping from Home: Singaporean Youth Volunteers with Migrant‐rights and Human‐trafficking NGOs in Singapore.” Geographical Journal, vol. 184, no. 2, 2018, pp. 169-178, doi:10.1111/geoj.12221. Accessed 22 February 2021.


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Rhetoric in Everyday Life by Megan Waterston is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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