There comes a time when we lose ourselves or get lost on the metaphorical road we follow. We could keep stumbling and falling that there are times when we forget how to get up again. Sometimes, we fear so many things that it hinders us from standing up. We are afraid of the pain that would follow, we are afraid of the risks that we might take and its consequences. More importantly, we are afraid to fail. But somehow, something or someone manages to help us to our feet and give us another push forward.
Brightest is the latest book from Isshin Dream Publishing, penned by Joanne Crisner with Josephine Litonjua, art by Johann de Venecia. It tells the story of a firefly catcher who wanders the forests of Benbulè Kingdom and becomes lost. In his quest to return home, he meets an idle firefly and asks for its assistance. The firefly is very reluctant to help, preferring to continue with its nap, but it changes its mind the moment it sees the firefly catcher’s smile, described to be the “warmest and brightest smile the entire Benbulè Kingdom had ever seen”.
The book itself, beautifully drawn and designed by California-based Filipino artist Johann de Venecia, tackles the subject of “loss”. But it also poses this question: Who was really lost? The firefly catcher trying to find his way home or the idle firefly who was weary and tired? The author, Joanne Crisner, points out that we can lose ourselves many times in the vast journey of our lives. There are those who are lucky enough to find their way again without too much time lost, while others would spend a lifetime searching but never regain themselves. There are others still who are able to learn from their mistakes while some continue to repeat the same errors. As the author states: We lose our soul to find our life.
Without a doubt, the book is targeted for young children but it will do well in the hands of teenagers and adults alike for it carries a lesson that I think everyone would understand and be able to relate to. However, whereas people would focus on the subject of “Loss”, I would like to pay more attention to the firefly catcher who, in a way, “saved” the firefly. People think that we have to put extraordinary effort to save someone, where in truth it is the little things we do that make an outstanding difference.
I am reminded of my classmate back in High School. She was half-Filipina and, although she could read and understand Filipino dialect, she had difficulty conversing in it. She was also very pretty. From head to foot, no one would think that she would have a drop of Filipino blood in her. Despite her physical (and cultural) difference, she fit in pretty well. She had a good reputation with the teachers and was friends with almost everyone in class. She was, how to put it, part of the “It” crowd.
She and I did not have the same circle of friends. We were friendly, but not close. We would smile and greet whenever we passed each other in the hall, have pleasant conversations in-between classes, but we never hung out. At the time, I thought that was all we ever were to each other—just friendly acquaintances. Then, of course, graduation came. Many would go to different universities scattered all over the Philippines; and still others would be migrating abroad with their families, and social networking would be the only possible means of staying in touch.
Anyway, just before we entered the auditorium to receive our diplomas, we all took turns writing on each other’s school uniforms. The girls would pass out scented stationary letters to each of their friends. I received and gave out a lot to close friends, but I never thought of receiving something from her. This classmate whom I only interacted with for three minutes in the hallway, whom I would only greet with a “hello” each time I’d see her—without word or warning presented me with her own scented stationary envelope. She just smiled at me as always and said “Congratulations, and good luck.” I did the same and shook her hand as I knew that she would be returning to the U.S. after graduation.
That evening, when I got home, I opened her letter and saw a photo of her and me. It was taken during one of the school’s activities. I remember that day. I was lounging in the classroom with my friends, when she and some of our other classmates walked in to retrieve something in their bags. She saw us at the corner and called to have our pictures taken together. Honestly, I didn’t think she’d give me a copy of that photo. I read the note that came with it and I was stunned to silence. She thanked me, of all people, for being nice to her and for being a friend. She said that there were days when she felt down and frustrated but whenever we passed each other in the hall, I would never fail to greet her and smile. She said that something so simple as that immediately brightened her day, and she thanked me for doing so each and every time we met, and she hoped that would never change. She’s still in the U.S. She came home briefly for her 18th birthday and had her debutant ball here. She arrived at my doorstep and delivered the invitation personally, and I remembered to greet her with a smile like always.
When I read Brightest, it reminded me of this special event. Why? Because I feel the moral of the story is not about how the firefly regained himself. It was how the firefly catcher enabled the firefly to rediscover his inner light. I never expected that something so small, so simple as a smile could create a great impact on a person, but it did. It’s the same thing with the firefly and the catcher. The firefly catcher, a complete stranger, ignited the firefly back to life. He didn’t use any special phrase or words of wisdom. He didn’t have to do the impossible such as move a mountain or burn out the sun. He did it with a small and simple act: Smile.
The lesson that I have gathered from this book and from my own experience is that it’s not about how great we are or of what people expect us to be. Surprisingly, it is the small and simple act that can usher a change in someone. That is undoubtedly the light that shines the brightest.
BRIGHTEST by Joanne Crisner and Johann de Venecia with Josephine Litonjua is property of Isshin Dream Publishing. Please support the publishers and authors/artists.