"The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"

Psalm 27 describes the "light" we need to illuminate our lives. And in these times, we need it tremendously.

The dictionary defines light as "something that makes things visible or affords illumination: All colors depend on light; energy producing brightness: the energy producing a sensation of brightness that makes seeing possible." The dictionary then goes on at length to define all that this word is: a noun, a pronoun, an adjective and even a verb.

Many poets and authors have used differing aspects of this "illuminating" word such as "... the light which experience gives is a lantern on the stern, which shines only on the waves behind us," Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote.

Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities" begins with "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us." Sounds ominous rather than enlightening.

John Henry Newman's words gave hope for dark times: "Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom, lead thou me on; the night is dark, and I am far from home, lead thou me on. Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see the distant scene; one step enough for me."

As I grow older, I really love Dylan Thomas' words, "Do not go gentle into that good night, old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

This past week my fascination with this word was heightened by several experiences. One was when I was privileged to attend the Senior Companion Recognition Banquet last Thursday, which honored those men and women who serve others in so many ways. "Companion" is a great name for one of the greatest things we can give another -- that of "being there" -- adding light to combat loneliness and doing those simple tasks that need to be done. That is the gift offered by these men and women to their clients. And many of the Senior Companions are not as nimble and spry as some younger persons.

Thirty-five years of service by Fritzy Weichen, a 99-year-old Senior Companion from La Crosse, was truly a "light" for my eyes, as were all of those who were honored. They really "lit" up the hall. Their guiding light was Marlene Dinkel, who retired after 14 years. To all those bright "lights," we are grateful and illuminated. They have shown us the way.

And then there are those other quiet "lights" who go about helping others without being asked and do not expect thanks. "... And leave a light where all before was dark," said William Charles Wentworth.

We live in a lovely "lit up" world if we heed what holy Scripture tells us: "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds."

I recently read in a news item that America, "the city on the hill," had lost its ability to lead the world. It is true today we need to regain what our forefathers worked so hard to secure. We all can be the light that not only shines in our church communities at home, but also throughout the whole world. We are in dire need for that light to diminish the darkness that has invaded our country. The words below, a prayer traditionally known as the Prayer of St. Francis, tell us how to brighten the darkness of our world: "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy. O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life."

Yes, let our light shine for all the world to see. God Bless America.

Ruth Moriarity is a member of the Generations Advisory Group.