Long ago, or maybe not so long ago, there was a tribe in a dark, cold cavern. The cave dwellers would huddle together and cry against the chill. Loud and long they wailed. It was all they did. It was all they knew to do. The sounds in the cave were mournful, but the people didn’t know it, for they had never known joy. The spirit in the cave was death, but the people didn’t know it, for they had never known life.
But then, one day, they heard a different voice. “I have heard your cries,” it announced. “I have felt your chill and seen your darkness. I have come to help.”
The cave people grew quiet. They had never heard this voice. Hope sounded strange to their ears. “How can we know you have come to help?”
“Trust me,” he answered. “I have what you need.”
The cave people peered through the darkness at the figure of the stranger. He was stacking something, then stooping and stacking more.
“What are you doing?” one cried, nervously.
The stranger didn’t answer.
“What are you making?” one shouted even louder.
Still no response.
“Tell us!” demanded a third.
The visitor stood and spoke in the direction of the voices. “I have what you need.” With that he turned to the pile at his feet and lit it. Wood ignited, flames erupted, and light filled the cavern.
The cave people turned away in fear. “Put it out!” they cried.
“It hurts to see it.”
“Light always hurts before it helps,” he answered. “Step closer. The pain will soon pass.”
“Not I,” declared a voice.
“Nor I,” agreed a second.
“Only a fool would risk exposing his eyes to such light.”
The stranger stood next to the fire. “Would you prefer the darkness? Would you prefer the cold? Don’t consult your fears. Take a step of faith!”
For a long time no one spoke. The people hovered in groups covering their eyes. The fire builder stood next to the fire. “It’s warm here,” he invited.
“He’s right,” one from behind him announced. “It’s warmer.”
The stranger turned and saw a figure slowly stepping toward the fire. “I can open my eyes now,” she proclaimed.
“I can see.”
“Come closer,” invited the fire builder.
She did. She stepped into the ring of light.
“It’s so warm!” She extended her hands and sighed as her chill began to pass.
“Come, everyone! Feel the warmth,” she invited.
“Silence, woman!” cried one of the cave dwellers. “Dare you lead us into your folly? Leave us. Leave us and take your light with you.”
She turned to the stranger. “Why won’t they come?”
“They choose the chill, for though it’s cold, it’s what they know. They’d rather be cold than change.”
“And live in the dark?”
“And live in the dark.”
The now-warm woman stood silent, looking first at the dark, then at the man.
“Will you leave the fire?” he asked.
She paused, then answered, “I cannot. I cannot bear the cold.” Then she spoke again. “Nor can I bear the thought of my people in darkness.”
“You don’t have to,” he responded, reaching into the fire and removing a stick. “Carry this to your people. Tell them the light is here, and the light is warm. Tell them the light is for all who desire it.”
And so she took the small flame and stepped into the shadows.