I’m convinced that Heather is a prophet.
When the coronavirus closures first started and people began staying around the homestead like an episode of Little House on the Prairie, my wife said she had the perfect idea for brightening up the situation. Literally.
“Everyone should put up their Christmas lights again,” she said. “We’ve all got this extra time and it’d be fun to drive around and see everything.”
Within two days of her pronouncement came word of the latest social media trend: people re-hanging their holiday lights to lift the spirits of quarantined neighbors.
I know Heather is always right but this has got to be a new record.
I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, we usually put out the brilliant colors and florid displays at the darkest time of the year – “In the Bleak Midwinter,” as Christina Rossetti put it. We labor and we plan so that we can light the night, lifting even the heaviest shadows of the soul with a burst of joy and exuberance that will not be denied.
Time has passed. Spring has come. With a snow shovel rather than a garden spade, but it’s spring nonetheless.
But for a lot of folks, the shadows of winter are still falling.
Life isn’t what it was. OK, it never is. But this one has been a hard shake. We’ve seen gathering places go quiet, events fold up and wait for healthier times. Most of us have learned to keep our distance and try to let the pandemic pass by. Some have made its acquaintance anyway.
At a time like this, even the most case-hardened introvert is going to feel some stress. Many people are feeling more than some. It’s a situation that can leave folks feeling disconnected, restless, uncertain, scared.
It’s a time when we need every piece of joy we can find.
So why not let there be light?
I confess to a little selfishness here. Missy, our developmentally disabled ward, has been very confused and frustrated by the situation. A born extrovert, she always wants to grab her Giant Red Purse ™ and GOOOO! She lives for concerts, dances, bowling groups, dinners out. All of which are pretty much out the door for a while.
But if you’re a regular reader, you also remember that Missy loves Christmas lights. It’s a literal driving passion – in that we pretty much spend most of December driving Longmont to discover the neighborhoods and displays we haven’t yet seen.
It lifts her soul. And that lifts mine.
That’s how a family works. Or a neighborhood. Or a community. You do the things that lift each other up so that we can all walk a little taller.
We do a lot of the big things right, the ones that keep the water flowing and the power running and the garbage picked up each week. But what sets a place in the heart is the little things.
Like the Kansas families who brought us dinner every night for a week after Heather had surgery.
Like the neighbor here who shoveled our front walk when he learned my back was having problems.
Like anybody who goes out of their way to add beauty, love, or joy to someone else’s life.
Those are the real lights in the darkness. The ones that break through even the longest isolation and remind us that we’re not alone. That we have neighbors, families, friends who care.
So let’s do it.
Let’s make this a town that Santa Claus would envy and the Stock Show would admire. Bring ‘em on. Light ‘em up. Make it glow.
And even if you can’t put lights on your house, remember to turn on the ones in your heart.
One way or another, we are going to make a dark moment shine.