‘Creating light for the journey ahead’

A view on how Chicoans—recent and longtime residents—shape the soul of the city

The author is an educator, writer and counselor.

As a newcomer to Chico, finding my way to new connections has been a challenge. It has not been easy. But that was expected. It is part of the adventure (sometimes painful) in setting up a new home and to an extent a new identity. But I came voluntarily. Others in recent memory—due to the Camp Fire—settled here out of tragic necessity.

New residents and sojourners help shape not only the face of the city, but also its soul. That gives me hope and passion. I am delighted to live in Chico. The hospitality of its people has reminded me of the crucial nature of kindness. “Kindness,” not in the sense of being nice, but something deeper. We are all linked to the rhythms of change, both individually and corporately. The drumbeats of change bode well for growth when helped along by the rhythms of kindness.

The story is told of Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish novelist and poet. More than a century ago, as a young boy, he was sitting by the window one night in his room. He was watching a lamplighter lighting the street lights below. He was asked what he was doing. Stevenson said, “I am watching a man poke holes in the darkness.”

Perhaps we are all trying to poke holes in the darkness, and both newcomers and longtime residents take up the challenges of creating light for the journey ahead, often in difficult and conflicting circumstances.

In a poem, Naomi Shihab Nye writes:

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,

only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out

into the day to gaze at bread,

only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world

to say ‘It is I you have been looking for,’

and then goes with you everywhere like a shadow.

Nye is right, it is “the deepest thing inside.”