In a dark theater in 1982, I saw ET’s glowing finger reach out to heal a little boy – to restore life from death. ET’s heart glowed the same reddish orange. It was a moment I’ve never forgotten.
The movie tells the story of ET, the stranded alien, and Elliott, the 10-year-old boy who finds, hides and befriends this odd-looking visitor from another planet with a sweet tooth for Reese’s Pieces.
As the movie progresses, Elliott begins to feel the same feelings as ET. If ET feels fear, Elliott feels fear, too. Eventually, when ET gets sick, Elliott gets very sick, too. To save Elliott’s life, ET breaks this special bond. With Elliott well, he is able to rescue ET, by placing him in his bike and racing to the woods where ET meets his ship which has returned for him.
ET’s glowing heart inspired Neil Diamond to write the song Heartlight, and it became a big hit. You may recall the chorus:
“Turn on your heartlight.
Let it shine wherever you go.
Let it make a happy glow,
For all the world to see.”
These lyrics remind me of the passage from Matthew 5:14-15: “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house.”
It is unlikely any of us will have a miraculous finger that heals and reanimates, but most of us have caring spirit that we can share. Most of us aren’t medical professionals who physically heal people every day. But we can find some way to use our God-given gifts in ways that help our brothers and sisters.
Through the smile that greets the ailing mother when she enters your congregation, through the encouragement you offer for one’s weight loss attempts, through the building up of a child’s self image through meaningful study and play time, through all the simple and amazingly wonderful things that we do in our houses of worship every day, we strive to turn on the heart lights of each other. Seemingly insignificant acts like these can have the potential to be truly life giving and maybe even life saving.
We aren’t asked to be miracle workers in God’s Kingdom. Our job, as people of faith committed to bringing hope and healing to this world, is to love one another. And we can do this through acts of kindness and assistance. And in doing so, like ET to Elliott, we turn on the heartlights of those placed before us as well as our own.
Butch Odom is the Director of Faith Community Ministries at the Church Health Center in Memphis, Tennessee. Read more from him on his blog Panoramic Views in Faith and Health.