Times are dark. America is divided and increasingly isolated on the world stage.
What we all need are new ways to get back in touch with the things that unite us, that make us into us our best selves. People are hungry for some hope.
Derry-born actress, director, author and CEO Roma Downey, 57, knows all about it. LightWorkers.com is the name of her new multi-platform website launching this week, and her plan for it was in part inspired by these tough times.
To counter all the doom and gloom in our world and online, Downey has created a one-stop-shop for uplifting and inspirational content that motivates people to celebrate and share the good all round them. Her mission is simple, she says: she wants to brighten your day.
“I've had so much joy this week as we're about to launch,” Downey told our sister publication, the Irish Voice. “This project has been a passion of mine for a very long time, and it's great that we are finally able to hang the welcome sign on the door and be able to invite people to come in and be encouraged and to brighten their day.”
These days our attention spans have been reduced by social media's relentless real-time updates, and we're looking for to-the-point content that reflects that.
“We're looking for the stories of positivity, encouragement, and hope more and more,” says Downey. “The reminders that despite it all there is still good in the world. That there are wonderful people doing amazing things.”
Building on the success of previous Downey projects (alongside her famed producer husband Mark Burnett) including Light TV, the hugely successful TV mini-series "The Bible," "The Women of the Bible" and "The Dovekeepers," her new website will offer faith-based and uplifting content, but as president of the new venture this is very much Downey's own personal project.
Right away she's getting by with a little help from some of her best-known friends, including legendary ones like U2 guitarist The Edge and supermodel Cindy Crawford. Backed by MGM and Burnett and Downey, the project has already attracted serious investment from proven Hollywood heavy hitters.
“Look at the times we live in, the weather patterns, the storms we are getting, and the hostility in our country and across the world,” Downey explains. “For such a time as this, Lightworkers are needed now more than ever.”
In Derry, where Downey was born and raised, the women in particular often found themselves tasked with the formidable challenge of finding some light in the midst of the darkest years of The Troubles, often single-handedly charting their families way through the most unsettling times. Was their resolve an inspiration for her?
“I think you're absolutely right. I think it was a part of our DNA. There were times even if you fell to your knees you had to get back up,” she said.
“If you can’t get up on your own that's where your community came in. Someone would help you up. Sometimes you were helped up with a laugh. Sometimes it took more effort. All the different ways that people find to cope and to triumph.”
Even the design of the new yellow on white logo for Lightworkers comes from one of Downey's own hard won experiences of finding light in the midst of darkness.
“In the color scheme for the design of the site I have selected this really sunny yellow. My whole life the color yellow has always represented kindness,” she says.
“It stems from a moment in my life when my father died. I was in London at the time in college and I was due to fly home to Derry for a reunion.”
Downey was living in a lodging house and had to use the payphone in the hallway to make calls. “My father called and told me on the phone he had hung my favorite yellow flannel sheets on the indoor clothesline. He put them up in our kitchen to welcome me home.”
That night Downey woke up to hear someone banging on her door. “Hey Irish, wake up,” came a gruff voice. “Tell your family not to call in the middle of the night.”
When she picked up the receiver it was her brother on the line. He told her that their father had passed away. The next hours were a blur of sadness and grief, Downey says.
“I don't remember getting home, I don't remember arriving in Derry. Before I went to pay my respects I went into the kitchen. Hanging on the indoor clothesline were my yellow flannel sheets,” she recalls.
“They were the last act of kindness of my loving dad. Yellow has forever represented for me kindness and love. It's the color of Lightworkers now and in a way it's honoring my dad.”
Those moments when you're reminded of your own humanity is the aim of Lightworkers.
“When you feel empathy or compassion for what someone has gone through, those moments of connection remind us we have more in common than we have things that divide us,” Downey says.
Lightworkers.com is now online.