Be The Light

yDorA4p2SaOYhlQ0x1KkqAI’m never in a hurry to take my Christmas tree down.  I just love sitting in my living room on a cold Winter’s night, basking in the warm glow of the soft, colored lights.  The world seems to be a just a little more cheerful when I’m in the presence of a well-lit Christmas tree, and after the crazy year we’ve just endured, I’ve especially appreciated the comfortable coziness that it offers.  But it’s been up for almost two months now, so I’ve finally hauled my ornament boxes out of the basement so I can pack everything  away for next year.  I can’t say I’m especially happy about it, but it’s time.

Thankfully, my Christmas tree isn’t the only thing in my life that provides comfort and cheer.  Little things, such as reading a favorite book or sharing a delicious meal, always lift my spirits too.  And then there are those special people who have the ability to light up even the darkest of times with their generosity, compassion, humor, and just plain goodness.  They are the ones I turn to when I need help or advice, or even just a sympathetic ear.  They seem to know just what to say to make an overwhelming situation manageable, and can make us laugh when we need it most.  In short, they’re willing to shine their light into even the darkest corners of our lives, letting us see that maybe things aren’t quite so bad as we thought.

There was a time in my life when I thought that success was measured mainly in material things, like having a big house, a comfortable savings account and an impressive career.  But I’m older now, and I’ve come to realize that “successful” living really isn’t about any of that.  It’s about being the kind of person who makes a positive difference to others, and who manages to leave the world an even slightly better place than she found it.  Or at least those are the people I admire the most these days.

The fact is we are only on this earth for a short period of time, and many of the people we love the most leave us far too soon.  When we’re gone, we’re not really going to be remembered for how many awards we won or how much wealth we managed to accumulate.  And we’re certainly not going to be remembered fondly for all the times we indulged in one-upmanship or petty bickering about religion or politics.  It’s the times we helped someone who needed it, offered a friend a shoulder to cry on without judgement or shame, or just plain figured out a way to lighten someone’s load that will be our true legacy.

I have spent countless hours enjoying looking at my Christmas tree, but I couldn’t begin to tell you how many ornaments it has and I wouldn’t dream of comparing it’s beauty to any other tree.  When it’s been taken down and no longer graces my living room, it’s the warm light of the tree that I miss and remember so fondly.  Because ultimately, all that ever really matters is the light we shine on others.

93 thoughts on “Be The Light

  1. What we do for others, those are the ripples in the pond we leave. Sometimes it’s direct and tangible, and sometimes just sharing our own small joys, and weaknesses, say, in a blog, is enough to sustain. Keep well and safe.

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    • Thanks, Jo! But your light shines much brighter down there than mine ever could. You’ve helped so many people and educated so many children on how to be kind to animals. You’re a wonderful example to the rest of us!!

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  2. I took all the tree decorations off the tree, but left the tree and lights up. I love how it brightens the room! What with our sort days, a winter that is far less sunny than usual and no visitors because of lock down, the tree might just stay up until next Christmas!

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    • I do too! Christmas lights are my favorite part of the season, both inside and outside. And this year, as you say, we need them more than ever. I have to think this will be over before next Christmas (please!!!) but I also think that you can leave your lights and tree up just as long as you need the cheer and comfort they provide. So many people I know still have their up, and why not? Take care!

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    • You’re welcome. I think it’s one of those things that you learn as you go along. But when I think of all the people who’ve made a difference in my life, it’s always the people who helped me when I needed help. And never the people who just happened to be impressive by society’s standards. Sometimes there is overlap, but the point is that it’s our behavior that matters, not our possessions, achievements or looks. Thanks for the comment!

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  3. This is definitely a time for reflection and letting go Ann. 💛 Your tree is very symbolic. So many of us are hanging on and justifying it….in order to feel more in control in a world that is shifting.
    Now is the time to truly let go and allow the next chapter of our lives to emerge.
    This takes courage 💛🙏💛😛

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    • It does take courage to let go! I think that hanging onto pretty lights is okay, but trying to hang on to the past never works, whether the past is good or bad. Life is constantly moving forward, and we just need to go along with that. Thanks for the comment, Val!

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  4. Two of my neighbors still have their outdoor Christmas lights up — and shining. The wreaths and trees are down, but like so many people this year, they seem reluctant to take down the lights. I’m all for it – especially since I get to enjoy them, too!

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    • We got a snow fall yesterday, and my neighbor turned on her outside Christmas lights last night and they looked so pretty against the snow! You know, even before this pandemic, I’ve always thought that people should leave their outside lights up through January. It’s a long, dark month, so why not make it more cheerful? We need cheer this year more than ever, but I honestly don’t see any reason to take the lights down the minute Christmas if over.

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  5. A beautiful tree, Ann. I regret to say that we took ours down on the Sunday after New Years. We do still have our back yard tree lights on and often put them on for a Friday night. They can be seen by 6 of our neighbours, and many comment that the tree lights lift their spirits. Stay well and let your light shine on. Allan

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    • Nothing wrong with taking your tree down! I think it’s a personal choice. We left ours up longer this year because we didn’t really have time to deal with it, and were also reluctant to give up the cheer and comfort it provided. As for outside lights, I’m all for leaving them up through January to light up a dark and dreary month! And yes, we all need to let our light shine on others…that’s the only thing that really will make this world a better place, I believe. Thanks, Allan!

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    • Exactly, Stuart! When we try to help others, we end up helping everyone, including ourselves. Whereas when we are always acting out of our own self-interests, we tend to mess things up for everyone. I like the way you put that….thanks for the comment!

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  6. Beautiful thoughts as always Ann! We always leave our tree up until the Wednesday after Epiphany. Mostly because it is sad to see it go. Next year, will do it while the “kids” are still here to do the heavy lifting. You always let your light shine! Thanks for that and looking forward to all the fun times to come!

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    • I can’t wait until we see you and Bomi again! And yeah, we always leave our up until at least Epiphany too, but it’s also just an excuse to leave our tree up because we love it so much. Nothing wrong with that, I think!!!

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  7. Oh, Ann, what a beautiful post! This leads me to the topic of bereavement of all things. As you said, when our loved ones are “gone too soon.”
    Grief was darkness and it was lit for me by the help of others who had walked this horrible journey. So I want to do the same now that I have emerged into the light. And that has been my life’s passion and focus. I see my deceased son as the light in my light. Making sense of his death by surrounding myself with that light, uplifts me.
    So I’m glad I could add my own personal thoughts about light and darkness and making a difference.
    Jason only lived 5 years, but he made a difference.
    ps. I’m Jewish, so it sounds lovely to imagine a Christmas Tree. We had other traditions, but I love hearing about others.

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    • The tree lights and outdoor lights are actually my favorite part of Christmas. And I’m so sorry about your son, I knew you lost him but didn’t realize he was only five years old. Still, I’m glad that you were able to use the experience to help others who are also suffering from profound grief. I’ve heard so many people say that the support they got from friends and family, and in particular the support from others who knew just what it felt like, was the only thing that got them through those dark times. That’s a very powerful way to shine your light for others!!!

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    • Thank you so much! We seem to keep our tree up a little longer each year….who knows? Maybe the time will come until it’s not taken down until Valentines day! But yes, the light that humans can, and do, shine on others is absolutely the most important thing, I believe. Thanks for the comment!

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  8. I do enjoy seeing the christmas tree, too, even after the season, something I got from my mother. and yes, the small things are the big things after all. love and light! 🙂❤️

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  9. Beautifully said Ann. A person’s heart and intention shines far more brightly than their job or possessions, just like your tree is more than just it’s ornaments. Sending lots of love and warm wishes your way. 💛🥰

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    • Thanks, Miriam! It’s all about how we treat each other, I think. The older I get, the more I realize that is true. Thanks for the light you regularly share through your blog….and I’m quite sure if I met you in person, I would see that same “light” too!

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    • Yes, a friend who was a true light to almost everyone who knew her died recently, and the analogy just sort of jumped to my mind. It’s the people who don’t want the spotlight on themselves but instead choose to light the way for others who make such a difference in this world. And like a Christmas tree, they aren’t around forever, so it’s important to shine as brightly as we can, while we can.

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  10. The contemplations in the presence and inevitable retreat of the Christmas tree are nothing short of life lessons. It’s the stuff the scriptures are made of, except you have to turn over a zillion pages to understand the very same essence.

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  11. Amen!! My son still has his Christmas tree up, and for exactly the same reason. I suspect certain rituals provide comfort in these uncertain times. And who dictates when you should take down your Christmas decor anyway? I mean, if it soothes you and isn’t bothering anybody, it seems to me you could leave it up year-round!

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    • That’s what my husband says! I honestly don’t think he’d ever take it down. But I figure that if it was up all the time, then it wouldn’t seem quite so special. Still, I agree that there’s no rush to take it down, especially during the gloomy month of January, especially when it provides such comfort and cheer during a time when we really need it. Good for you son!!!

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  12. Lovely! We need a light, just a little one to warm a few steps ahead of us, as we step out of the darkness we’ve been wrapped in for too long. Small steps toward a common, loving goal ends results in a gathering glow of shared dreams. So, baby steps, folks. We’ll get there…together.

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    • I like the way you think, Liz. We can get there, together, if we can just tone down the judgement and hatred even a little bit. I’ll never understand why it’s so hard for us to understand that we don’t have to be afraid of those who aren’t exactly like us.

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  13. You’re right, we are only on this earth for a short period of time. Realize that I’m thinking about that time differently than in the past. I used to think I’m young. Then I began thinking I’m aging. Now I think I’m dying. While I sometimes find that thought depressing, more often than not I find it motivating and a reminder to be grateful.

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    • It really can be motivating to accept our own mortality, and I think that gets easier as we age. But when we stop pretending that we’re going to be on this earth forever, we become much more intentional about how we spend our time here, and that’s a good thing. Thanks for that insightful comment!

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  14. Yes, with age we seem to change our priority lists. This year my Christmas tree has been repurposed. I enjoy it sitting in a corner of the living room and have decided it will be my celebration tree. Today is is covered with hearts for Valentine’s Day. Later will come the shamrocks, then the eggs and flowers. I have special plans for July 4th. We need to remember to celebrate the traditions that make life interesting and exciting. Great post, Ann.

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    • I think that’s a great idea, Larry! Why not have a year-round celebration tree? There’s lots to celebrate and we need to be reminded of that. I had a friend who had a tall, slim tree up in her family room all the time. It wasn’t decorated in Christmas stuff, and it actually looked rather nice. But I like your idea of changing the decorations to suit the holidays and seasons even better!

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  15. It’s so nice to see you back. I hope you enjoyed your break and are feeling refreshed. Your post was lovely, with so many nuggets to contemplate. It is true. Rarely, do people at the end of their life wish they spent more time working or accumulating. But, a life well lived is one where a person gives of themselves to others. What a beautiful challenge for the beginning of this year! (ps…I still have my little tree up and am loathe to take it down and put it away.) Take care, Ann!!

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    • I’d say leave the tree up as long as you want to, Brenda! And yes, I think how we treat others makes all the difference, and a truly successful person is one who has helped many, many others….especially if they don’t care about getting credit. Thanks for your sweet comment!

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  16. Although I am forever grateful to have a home to live in that is safe and warm, it is the people in my life that make it worth living. The question in my office currently is, “How many people can your love today?” It makes me smile every time I read it. Take care. I am wishing you wellness and peace.

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  17. Hi Ann, Finally taking down your beautiful Christmas tree after two months must have been very dis-ornamenting. But seriously, thank you for reminding me what it means to live a successful life.

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  18. Well, if it helps, the Catholic Church has your back concerning the Christmas tree. Not only do we have long-standing traditions that extend past Christmas Day itself–my husband and I still open presents for the twelve days of Christmas, which ends on Epiphany, January 6th–but the older liturgical traditions extended the Christmas season until Candlemas, February 2nd. It was basically Christmas until just before Lent.

    So, if you like, you can merely be historical about the whole affair. If anyone gets on my case for my late-standing tree, I give them Church history until their eyes glaze over. Only enthusiasts make it as far as the feast of St. Blaise. Being a history nerd can have unexpected benefits. : )

    But concerning the meat of your post, as usual, I completely agree. It’s up to us to be the light. Small acts of kindness are never a waste of time. Even if all I can do is spare people the sharp side of my tongue when I’m really annoyed, that’s something. An actual helping hand is something more. Eventually, this stuff adds up.

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    • One of the best things about blogging is that readers can write comments on our posts. And while I’ll admit that keeping up with the comments can sometimes be overwhelming, they are so very often worth it, as yours just showed. I grew up knowing about Epiphany, and knowing that keeping a tree up until January 6th was completely justified. BUT….I had never heard of Candlemas, and the reason for keeping up a tree until February 2. This is huge! Now I can leave it up without guilt, even in the years when a nasty pandemic doesn’t justify keeping a tree up a bit longer than usual. Thank you for that. And you know, sharing these kinds of facts is most certainly a way to provide a light to others. Which just goes to show that it’s really not that hard to make life a little bit better for others!

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  19. What a beautiful and heart-warming post, Ann. I couldn’t agree more that it’s the love we spread around that will be remembered, far more than the quality of our blender or the make of our cars. Sounds so silly to even suggest that the size of our houses is what counts. Not a soul will care, but they’ll remember love and love creates ripples, not only in the present but through time. Love is immortal. Now, I should probably think about taking down my Christmas lights. Lol. ❤

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  20. Pingback: Be The Light | Random Thoughts

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