I heard some good stories from my students this week about their various experiences with the minute of silence on Remembrance Day. Most were pretty funny, involving things that, shall we say, broke the silence. While the stories were accompanied with giggles, they all seemed to know that this moment of reflection was important and that disturbing it, while funny, wasn’t exactly how things should have gone. These stories and reactions are one of the many reasons I like working with children. They see the world with a clarity that is both entertaining and humbling. The songs that have been written for children often do the same.

This song was suggested to me by a friend whose young son was rocking out to it at the time when I asked for hymn suggestions. She also forwarded me a video of the Bruce Springsteen version. I’m pretty sure I haven’t adequately rocked out anything with my version, but working on this was a good reminder of how some songs with such sheer simplicity can catch the attention of a wide range of us – the young, the old, the rockers and the piano players. Music is funny that way. No matter how we try to define, categorize, analyse and understand it, sometimes we just like a tune. And sometimes the words make us think beyond what they were intended for.

This one has an interesting story. There is a sense that it is an old Negro Spiritual, and it does have ties with the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s, but it was originally written as a children’s gospel song by Harry Dixon Loes around 1920. In the late 1930s, John Lomax, a musicologist and folklorist, included it in a collection of American folk songs. Used by activist Zilphia Horton (who also helped transform “We Shall Overcome” into a civil rights anthem) as one of the many hymns that were claimed as songs to forward the movement, it has long been sung by activists to represent the idea of shining brightly for what is right. For refusing to diminish until the task is complete.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

There are several versions of this song, a few variations on the tune and some additional verses. Most are very simple. The version I remember as a child, had a verse that provided a list of daily gifts; ideas to help us through each day.

Monday gave me the gift of love,
Tuesday peace came from above,
Wednesday told me to have more faith,
Thursday gave me a little more grace,
Friday told me to watch and pray,
Saturday told me just what to say,
Sunday gave me the power divine just to let my little light shine.

Challenges abound in our lives. Big ones – like working for the ideals of peace, equality and justice. Small ones – like honouring a silence when we’re trying not to giggle! I’m thankful for the many children I meet each week who are so vibrant. Who provide both entertainment and insight in many ways.   They remind me that even the smallest light can brighten our sometimes gloomy world. So, take the cue and let it shine!