We went down 378 spiraling steps into the Wieliczka Salt Mine in southern Poland, wondering what we would find and thinking about how easy it would be to get lost in the underground maze around us. I marveled at how anyone could spend so much of their life underground and retain their sanity.
As we passed through various chambers, we were shown sculptures in the salt. Hundreds of years ago, some anonymous miner in the depths of the earth saw the candlelight reflected in the salt and realized that it could be a wonderful medium for carving. Perhaps he dreamed of being an artist like Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo. Maybe he spent his lunch or after-work hours creating his own masterpiece, one that would never be on display in a sumptuous museum or sunlit cathedral. It would only serve to inspire other miners like himself. Perhaps he hoped that in the deep he could show them the way to God. Eventually, others began to carve as well.
Four hundred forty-three feet beneath the surface of the earth, the miners created a chapel. On the walls, they depicted the life of Jesus, from the nativity to the resurrection. Maybe they realized that they desperately needed God’s protection and care as they entered the forbidding darkness.
Who would have thought that light shining on salt would cause it to gleam like marble? Who could imagine that men who do such manual labor would have time and inspiration to create masterpieces? Our guide invited us to test the acoustics, reputed to be some of the best in the world, and told us how people still bring their children into the salt mines if they have asthma or allergies to benefit from the healing power of the salty air.
After an elevator ride back to the surface, I continued thinking about the salt mine. I’m not a sculptor, artist, or composer, but it’s important to me that I am able to create something through my writing. Whatever you do can become something that will inspire others.
Life is not all sunlight and blue skies. Even in the dark places, a tiny candle can lead us to find our purpose. The sweat and tears won’t last, but the beauty we create in the spaces of our lives can live on and enlighten someone else’s darkness.