As 2016 takes off, hope seems hard to find—the stock market diving, Shiites and Sunnis rattling sabers in the Middle East, North Korea announcing nuclear advances. By the headlines, you’d swear the world is falling apart!
Challenged by my Christian speaker buddies to pick a word focus for 2016, I chose the word “light.” Jesus loved light imagery. He claimed, “I am the light of the world.” He challenged believers, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand. ... Let your light shine before men….” God’s hope brings light to even the worst of times. Need hope? Look for the light around, but you seldom find it on the 6 o’clock news.
Edith Wharton, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, observed, “There are two ways of spreading light: To be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it.” Allow me to reflect light of some very special people to kindle a little hope to start 2016.
Domino Pizza Driver, Angela Ngyyen, inspired a community to change the life of Lee Haase, a 76-year-old man living in extreme poverty. Lee was a regular Saturday night pizza customer, but after an extreme storm damaged his trailer and his son died in a snowmobile accident, Lee all but gave up on life. Not willing to let Haase continue to live alone in a 12-foot camper with no heat, no plumbing, and no electricity, Angela started a Facebook and GoFundMe site for Lee. Collecting donations of more than $32,360, his supporters bought him a new trailer home, fully furnished and supplied. Over his bed, they posted five words—Joy, Love, Peace, Hope, and Believe. Light came to Lee this Christmas.
Invited to get beyond the walls that divide so many modern neighborhoods, 17% of households in Agoura Hills, Ca, created a Nextdoor group where neighbors can ask questions, exchange local advice, and get to know one another. They joined 87,000 neighborhoods across the country who’ve created their own private neighborhood social networks. When faulty wiring started a fire that took the home and possessions of the Black family before Christmas, neighbors moved into action.
Using the newly established Nextdoor network, Patty Tanenbaum notified neighbors, established a GoFundMe site, and helped collect and deliver two truckloads of clothing, furniture, and other necessities. Agoura Hills firemen, responding to the tragedy, brought Christmas gifts to the Black family. Lori Black summed it up, “I’m speechless. We’re so lucky to have such amazing neighbors and an amazing fire department.” They have insurance and a caring community ready to bring light into their darkest day.
Margraretha Wells came to CA with her son James looking for a new start, but even with 23 years’ experience as a licensed master cosmetologist, there were challenges—inadequate savings and a higher cost of living. She had always been successful but reluctantly took public assistance. She heard of Uplift VC program started by LSS Community Care in Thousand Oaks, CA. The program’s mission fit—“break the chain of poverty one person at a time.” With the support of her allies, she started her own apprenticeship company, Dream International Beauty Academy Apprenticeship. It’s more than a business; it will allow Margraretha to help apprentices live their dream as a licensed cosmetologist or barber.
“There are thousands of people who love to cut and style who are working out of their kitchens with their neighbors and friends,” Margraretha said. “I once was one of them. Apprenticeship provides a way for them to get paid while learning and earning a license. By the grace of God, I will be successful, and I’ll help others do the same.”
Thanks to contacts generated by her allies at Uplift VC, Margraretha has met with Rhoda Olsen, the CEO of Great Clips. With her encouragement and initial financial support, more students are now able to receive training.
There is no time like the present to be a lamplighter. Matthew DeRemer, a surgical technologist, made a post on Facebook to end 2015 and bring in the new year. His chosen quotation was poignant, “We are born in 1 day. We die in 1 day. We can change in 1 day. And we can fall in love in 1 day. Anything can happen in just 1 day.” Little did Matthew know that later that day he would die in auto crash.
Mathew wrote: “Last day of 2015!!!! For me I'll be meditating through all I do, on this entire year. I've lost, I've gained, family is closer and tougher than ever before, loved ones lost, and new friends found. There has been many times where I've been found on my knees in prayer for hours (relentless) and other times leading a group of people in prayer, my faith (that I love to share) is an everyday awakening (to me) that people, lives, and circumstances can change for the better OVER TIME. I look back at 2015's huge challenges that I've overcome, shared with others, and have once again found myself... To say thank you and BRING ON 2016, much works to be done! And I really don't know where I'll end up tonightbut I do know where I windup is where I'm meant to be. ”
There’s no warranty on anyone’s toe. Mathew made a difference in his last day by reminding us all to make a masterpiece out of each day we have. None of us may have enough light to change the country, but each may have enough to impact a neighborhood or a neighbor. In total darkness, one candle sends darkness running. Let’s let our lights shine. Let’s be the hope we so want to see in America today.