Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hundreds of candles in the wind

Every year I get more of these ghosts of Christmas past in the room. They don't say much. They don't have to. I already know that the best Christmas in middle age cannot match the least one of childhood. Then it was about things yet to come. Now it's about memory. But I have a feeling those ghosts expect me to pretend otherwise.

I think of them every year when my neighbors and I come forth to set out our luminaries. It's a tradition in my Wichita neighborhood: one weekend in December, we grudgingly honor a pact to line our ordinary streets with points of light. I thought it a little goofy when I first moved here, and kind of burdensome to keep those candles lit in a freezing drizzle. But I'm a true believer now.

You take one paper bag with a candle in it, it's not really much to look at. You take hundreds of them and put them in a row, and the effect is magical. That well-worn way to work becomes a runway to heaven. I guess it's that way with acts of kindness too. A single one can get lost in the shuffle, blown out by a passing truck. But multiplied they change the world.

I know; it's a clich̩. Peace on Earth, and all that. But our time here is short and contrary to popular belief, our opportunities to do the right thing are not infinite. If you've ever lost a loved one, you know this is true. Last year at this time I was talking to my sister on the phone. She wasn't feeling well and wouldn't be able to make it home for Christmas. I made a joke or two and told her I'd see her in the spring. And I did Рat her funeral. It wasn't the first time in my life I thought of all the candles I'd left unlit.

So, yeah: Do the deed. Put out your luminaries, and not just at Christmas. You're not going to get a pat on the back for each one, but maybe kindness without publicity is the most sincere kindness of all. And certain candles will burn all through a long December night. Maybe yours will too.

(This is a variation on a post I submitted to Do The Deed, a Wichita campaign promoting small, and great, acts of kindness. Check it out. And Merry Christmas. -- Dave)

1 comment:

Inks Correspondent said...

The beginning of this post was a little sad. So many middle-aged people I know (I'm in my mid-twenties) behave as if they're already dead, lol. Even if you're, what, fifty that's thirty years of remaining adult life spent reminiscing the previous thirty years. Doesn't make much sense!

Which I guess is a way of saying: try not to let the past overwhelm you. What is A Christmas Carol, for example, if not an allegory for the capacity to disregard an unhappy past and change for the better?