The People that Make it Shine: A Holiday Awareness

By: Debbie Clarke

I love how awareness, truth and the true meaning of Christmas can show up, even in the midst of my identity crisis: deciding if I am Annie Oakley or Norma Rockwell.

 I recently was visiting my hometown to be with my family and take part in The Spirit of Christmas celebration that occurs the first weekend of December.  It’s a full weekend of the tree lighting, cookies and hot chocolate with Santa, breakfast and pictures with Santa, a house decorating competition, as well as a craft sale.

My hometown, Oxford Mills, is a really small Hamlet, as it is referred to, in the Ottawa Valley region.  I actually just looked up the meaning of ‘Hamlet’ and it is, “a small settlement, generally smaller than a village”.  So that gives you the idea of how small we are talking. I loved growing up there as we all knew each other and the feeling of community was very strong. I have such wonderful memories of my childhood and the people I knew and grew up with.

On Friday afternoon, I was with my niece and brother, putting up Christmas decorations at the church, including an outdoor projection light, in preparation for the festivities.  It was still daylight and we couldn’t get the full effect of the light, so we returned later, before the tree lighting ceremony, and we were thrilled.  The light looked so beautiful, as it projected dancing lights and lit up the entire church yard. 

We drove around Oxford Mills and saw other lights and took pictures and I honestly felt like a kid again, and that old familiar community pride was alive in me, for the first time in many years.  I was giddy with excitement and so happy to have my Great-Nieces and Nephews there to share the excitement of seeing the lights and meeting Santa.

There was a good turnout for the tree lighting, which occurred at the other end of the village and while everyone was there, the projection light was stolen from the church yard, just hours after it was installed.

When I got the news of the theft, at first I was in disbelief and slowly the anger began to build inside of me.  Who would do such a thing?  The nerve of someone to boldly steal what isn’t theirs.   I think the strongest of those thoughts and feelings that were arising was the anger that someone was stealing not only the light, but the community pride and (mostly) my joy.

 In hindsight, I realized how I went into “vigilante” mode and had great visions of capturing and hog-tying the culprit for public shaming, like it was the Wild West.  This area was settled in the 1800’s and perhaps with all the history abounding, I was somehow channeling the law enforcement of the early days. I was angered at the lack of respect, the selfishness and the rule breaking of it all.  It really went against every one of my core values: the need for integrity, honesty and the basic rules of decent human behaviour.

That night my Niece Sara posted the incident on Facebook and I refrained from commenting on it, because I was so angry that I knew that I would have to edit the foul language that was floating around in my head.

The next day we were busy with the events and didn’t give it much thought, until we learned that the Ottawa CTV station was in town doing a news story on the incident that the reporter had noticed on Facebook.  During the taping of an interview with someone at the church, a couple who live in the Hamlet, approached and offered a cheque to cover the cost of the light and more. This renewed my faith in humanity and shifted the focus from the theft to the spirit of community and Christmas.  Not to mention the treat of having a television crew in our small little village and the story being aired on the news that evening.

I was still struggling in my mind, with the “hang ’em high” thoughts and went to bed that night with it weighing heavy on my mind.  On Sunday morning, I was scrolling through Facebook and came across a video that someone had posted.  I just love how the right message shows up at the perfect time, and this was exactly what I needed to hear

The video was done by a man that spoke about being out with his 4 -year- old daughter.  They witnessed a man throw his garbage on the ground and an elderly woman nearby said, “that’s disgusting that he littered”.  The little girl said to the lady, “why don’t you pick it up”?  The message the man in the video shared, was that there are three kinds of people.  The ones that make our world dirty, the ones who just observe that it was made dirty and then there are people who do something about it.

A metaphorical outdoor projection light bulb went off for me!  I was the one wasting my energy on observing that the theft had occurred and how to punish the thief, and the people that donated the money to buy a new light, were doing something about it.  They shifted the energy and the focus. 

Every situation offers a choice and I can just sit and observe and say how terrible a situation is, and I can rant and plot revenge and justice, or I can act, which for me in that moment was to be aware of my feelings and feel them fully.   Someone can steal a light, but they can never steal my joy and my light, as I would first have to relinquish it.

The important piece for me was that I had to feel the anger fully.  I couldn’t jump over the anger and suppress it into my body, because having done that in the past has compromised my physical health, and I have vowed to not do that again.  When I did feel it, I could then really let it go and, I was ready to hear the message from the video clearly and authentically feel the joy again. 

Lesson learned!  A light doesn’t make a community bright; it’s the people that make it shine.  It reminds me of The Grinch movie and the Who’s of Whoville that gathered and sang and celebrated Christmas, even though they had all their festive items taken; they had joy and the Spirit of Christmas in their hearts. 

 It’s not important where we live or what we celebrate, as we are all the same and in our human experience we all flourish and shine in community and in belonging.   When we are vigilant about feeling our emotions fully and being clear, we can then make a difference.  I choose to be vigilant rather than be a vigilante.  I was just confused when I added the “e” to vigilant. Wishing you all the most wonderful Holiday Season and many blessings for 2018.

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