by Deborah Steele Hazen
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12, New International Version (NIV) of the Bible,
As my family is seated, sated, in the living room after the Thanksgiving feast, I like to clap my hands and announce: “Alright! It’s time to start decorating for Christmas.”
This is greeted with moans, sarcastic chuckles, and a disapproving look from my husband who knows I am only half in jest. If the family has left by Thanksgiving evening, I am likely to put away the fall decor, and begin the lengthy process of bedecking the interior of the house for Christmas. This year I had to wait until Friday. My husband does the outside when, if and how he chooses, but I have control over the inside.
I love to open the boxes of ornaments, and invoke the memories of Christmases past. I have more decorations than I have space to put them – some from my childhood, others that belonged to loved ones no longer with us, some were gifts from friends, craft projects by children and grandchildren, a group of my favorites were purchased in Christkindlmarkets in Austria, when I spent Christmas there with my daughter Erika in 1994 while she was studying in Salzburg.
I take special care in arranging the Nativity scene that was my great grandmother’s. It is a large ceramic set painted by a local lady and given over half a century ago as an exchange for a quilt made by my “Nana.” There is also the smaller set from my childhood home. The top of Joseph’s head was broken off in a grandchild-related incident a few years ago. It has been glued back, imperfectly. Nevertheless, the memories make me smile.
Best of all are the lights. The hundreds of multi-colored lights that I string around my house – the hundreds of thousands around the community.
There is something about seeing the lights in the midst of the winter darkness, that brings joy to my heart.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16, NIV.
The concept of lighting the darkness has meaning for virtually all human belief systems. Beyond the visual beauty – which I find inspirational in and of itself – there are many other ways to symbolically light the darkness.
On Nov. 23, over 100 Clatskanie Kiwanians and other citizens who help support their projects gathered for the annual Kiwanis Gala event which raised approximately $26,000 for scholarships and other programs to bring “light” into the lives of local young people.
There are a handful of local business people who have donated portions of three days during the last couple of weeks to prepare the community street lights and decorate the library tree. There are the Clatskanie People’s Utility District crews that brave the inclement weather to hang the decorations to bring beauty and the holiday spirit to Clatskanie and Rainier. They help bring the “light.”
As they have for many years, the family, staff and volunteers of Groulx Family Mortuary presented the Candlelight Memorial Service Sunday, specifically created to bring “light” into the darkness of those in mourning.
There are the volunteers of the Clatskanie Arts Commission and its supporters who have arranged for a concert to bring the sounds of the season to our community. They help bring the “light.”
There are dozens of individuals of all ages who are working by themselves or through their organizations, churches and schools to provide food and gifts for local families in need. They are bringing the “light.”
There are people in the communities this newspaper serves who volunteer – in a hundred different ways and not just at Christmas – to address problems, to improve our hometowns, to provide opportunities for youth, to help others all year round. They are points of light.
Former President George H.W. Bush – the first President Bush – popularized the phrase “A Thousand Points of Light” – in accepting the nomination for president at the 1988 Republican National Convention and again in his inaugural address on Jan. 29, 1989. I kept a copy of that speech in my bedside table for years because I thought it was so good – expressing so well the importance of volunteerism in big and small ways all around the world. During his presidency, he recognized volunteers and community service organizations with “points of light awards,” and after his presidency he established an organization by that name which continues to mobilize volunteer efforts around the world.
Every week this newspaper carries information about local projects and organizations that need volunteers. If you are not yet a “point of light” in your community, please consider becoming one this holiday season and beyond.
“I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good. We will work hand in hand, encouraging, sometimes leading, sometimes being led, rewarding… The old ideas are new again because they are not old, they are timeless: duty, sacrifice, commitment, and a patriotism that finds its expression in taking part and pitching in.” – President George H.W. Bush, Jan. 20, 1989.