A Season of Lights
by Dianne Neal Matthews
Every December I enjoy seeing homes, yards, and buildings decorated with lots of lights. And every December I get frustrated by my own home’s lack of lights. Holiday decorating is not something my husband cares to do. While our kids were growing up, I hung lighted garland around our front door and the big picture window on the front porch. But now we have a different house. And at this point in my life, climbing an eight-foot ladder is not a wise option for me.
As Christmas nears each year, I try to figure out a plan for lighting up our house in a way that’s easy for me to execute and doesn’t cost a fortune. But I never succeed. Sometimes I wait too long and the merchandise is already picked over. Or I bring decorations home and they just don’t work out. Then I remember we’ll be going out of town to see family anyway. I give up and vow that next year I will do better.
This year I’m taking a different approach, inspired by a conversation I had on Veterans’ Day. As I waited in a downtown park for a business appointment, a man walked up and asked if I knew anything about the parade. I checked the local news app on my phone, but apparently, the annual parade he remembered had been discontinued. Disappointed, he thanked me and quietly said, “At least I can walk to the veterans’ memorial over there and look at my dad’s star.”
Watching the man’s back, I said, “So your dad—was he a World War II veteran?” As he turned around, he pulled his hands out of his pockets and his face lit up. He shared how his dad served in the navy during the war. He mentioned his father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s before his death. He briefly talked about how he and his brother cared for their mother before she died. Then we parted ways.
As I drove home, I could not forget the change in the man’s demeanor. And then it hit me: Even though I’ll probably never accomplish great things in the world’s eyes, I can impact one person at a time any day. Making eye contact and smiling at a stranger. Asking a question to initiate conversation. Listening as someone shares a bit of their history or present circumstances. Helping another person feel a little less alone.
This December my house may look dark from the street, but that’s okay. I want to see how many faces I can light up. Since Christmas honors the day that God sent us the Light of the World, I can’t think of a more appropriate way to celebrate.
Dianne Neal Matthews is the author of four daily devotional books including The One Year Women of the Bible and On This Day: 365 Meditations on Holidays & Historical Events. She recently collaborated with Ron Deal on Daily Encouragement for the Smart Stepfamily. Dianne also writes for websites, blogs, and compilations (including Guideposts’ Mornings with Jesus). To learn more, visit www.DianneNealMatthews.com or connect through Facebook or Twitter.