Last Friday night, our family took a leisurely drive down Taffy Lane in Ottawa’s east end. If you’re not familiar with it, Taffy Lane has the reputation of offering the best neighbourhood light display in the city (very fitting considering the formal name of the street, right?). It didn’t disappoint – nearly every house on the street was absolutely dripping with Christmas lights, while lawns were bursting with decorations. It was a bit like Christmas on steroids, but the kids just loved looking at all the glitz.
I have to give the residents of this lovely neighbourhood a lot of credit for their Christmas spirit – there was actually a group of carollers standing out on the street, belting out some classic holiday songs. I think I was more impressed by this than our kids were; our eight-year-old asked distainfully, “Who goes carolling anymore, anyway?” A beautiful act of community spirit nearly lost, it would seem. But even my sometimes-cynical eldest daughter was thrilled to see Santa – dressed in his full red suit – standing out on the road and passing candy canes to small, outstretched hands through car windows. This was the one time that we did allow our kids to take candy from a stranger.
Only much later that evening – after our little girls were sleeping soundly in their beds – did Ian and I allow our thoughts and conversation to turn back to the horrific event that had unfolded in Connecticut earlier that day. Our evening – which had been so light-hearted and fun – quickly turned melancholy as we allowed our tears to flow for the parents who had just lost their innocent, little children to the senseless gunfire of a madman.
Going to bed with a heavy heart almost guarantees a restless sleep and, sure enough, I awoke around 2 a.m. thinking of the tragedy. After struggling to push away the dark and disturbing images that filled my imagination, it suddenly struck me that those Christmas carollers – and that Santa – had come out in full force for a reason. An unspeakably evil event had taken place and they were fighting back – with love and with joy. And they were making a difference – whether they realized it or not.
As I lay awake in the middle of the night, staring into the darkness, I thought of those few houses on Taffy Lane that hadn’t bothered to turn their lights on. While it may seem like doing nothing has no impact, in fact it does. At the very least, those lightless windows detracted from the warm and inviting ambiance of the street; at most, they left visitors in the dark and the cold.
It occurred to me that it’s not unlike the influence that each of us has on the world around us. We can choose to run at full power – interacting with friends and neighbours in a positive, energy-giving way. We can open our hearts, our wallets and our homes. Or we can choose to turn our lights out, to withdraw; contributing nothing or, at worst, dimming the lights all around us.
If anything good can come out of the atrocity in Connecticut, let it be the inspiration for all of us to fulfill our potential to shine brightly in this world. This Christmas, let’s turn on the lights – just like the life-giving holiday that we’re celebrating.