A shining light amid the darkness of cancer


Whether you refer to the actions described in this column as tikkun olam, tzedakah or a mitzvah is irrelevant. What does matter is that the people involved in the art exhibit that is the focal point of the column have shown how living your life guided by those concepts can make the world a better place.

As kids, we’re often fearful of the dark. As adults, we’re more comfortable driving on streets that have modern LED lighting than on streets with poor or no lighting. We also feel better during the spring and summer, when the sun sets after 7 or 8, than in November, after we’ve “fallen back” and it’s pitch black after 4 p.m.

We also dread developments that plunge us into an inner darkness; it’s devastating, for example, to find out that a loved one has cancer. When that happens, we look for ways to light up our lives – and that’s the purpose of the luminaria lit at the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life fundraisers for the past two decades in honor of cancer patients and survivors.

That link between art and the real-life drama of battling cancer was what I hoped would result when, on behalf of the Relay For Life of Greater Attleboro committee, I pitched an art exhibit to the Attleboro Arts Museum to tie-in with what would have been the 22nd annual cancer society fundraiser.

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, that event, which was to be held in June at Norton High School, has been canceled for 2020. In its place, the local relay will participate in a virtual event on Sunday, June 7.

What evolved, thanks to Museum Executive Director Mim Fawcett’s support for an exhibit with a relay theme, was the “Luminaria” show, held in February. Luminarias consist of lit candles set in sand inside a paper bag.

The 19 luminarias created by the artists for the “Luminaria” exhibit provided an infinite amount of light, which clearly resonated with viewers, many of whom studied and photographed the works.

Having participated in the Greater Attleboro relay for 20 years, I’ve seen the impact of the luminaria over and over again. And I’ve seen the luminaria break hearts as the years pass and those labeled for survivors join those labeled for victims. But, above all, I’ve seen how comforting it is to see the luminaria shine out through the night.

That light provides hope, which is what the artists accomplished with their creations. That’s why, I’m sharing some of the artists’ words; in a world that desperately needs hope, it’s important to spread it around.

LARRY KESSLER (larrythek65@gmail.com) is a freelance writer based in North Attleboro.