The holidays can be stressful.
During a season that encourages us to remember our blessings and share them with those we love, many among us can barely get by.
For some, it’s the memory of loved ones who are no longer with them. For others, it’s the pain associated with joblessness, homelessness or addiction. And for those who are alone, the quiet and solitude of the holidays is all they can bare.
The strain isn’t limited to Eastern Jackson County. Beyond our shores, there’s much to worry about.
Those fleeing Syria in search of religious freedom struggle to find safe harbor. Our Islamic brothers and sisters fight for the freedom to practice their religion with the respect and dignity they deserve, even as a minority of fundamentalists threaten to terrorize our world. And economic uncertainty and stark poverty make it impossible for many in parts of Africa, Europe and Central America to meet basic living needs.
Let’s face it: There’s plenty to challenge our hope for ourselves and our world this holiday season. Yet amidst it all, there’s a powerful force waiting to break through and replace the darkness with light.
What is it, you ask?
Look in the mirror. It’s you.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, once spoke words I’ve quoted often and strive to remember each day: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
We have all the power we need to replace darkness with light and make our world a better place. Consider the following examples:
• In 1916, Bess Wallace Truman and others studying the book of Acts at Trinity Episcopal Church decided to put their faith into action and help those in need in Independence. They subsequently created the organization known today as Community Services League, an agency that each year provides food, clothing, utility assistance, employment and other services to tens of thousands of individuals in Eastern Jackson County.
• More than eight years ago, Bob Buckley – my neighbor and friend – created an organization dedicated to providing athletic enrichment and leadership development to students bound for William Chrisman High School who otherwise might not have access to such opportunities. Eight years later, Chrisman is fielding winning basketball teams and, more importantly, developing leaders on and off the court.
• More recently, Betty and Terry Snapp (my parents) of Stone Church Community of Christ and The Rev. Sarah Schofield-Wimberley (my sister-in-law) of Northern Boulevard United Methodist Church, established a community dinner to serve individuals and families in need in Northwest Independence. Today, the Stone Church Community Dinner feeds more than 150 people each Wednesday evening.
Each holiday season at home, Kate and I dust off the Christmas CDs and spin them through the rotation. A verse from Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Light One Candle” always gets me.
Light one candle for the strength we all need
To never become our own foe!
And light one candle for those who are suff’ring
Pain we learned so long ago!
Light one candle for all we believe in,
Let anger not tear us apart!
And light one candle to bind us together
With peace as the song in our heart!
You and I are the candles. Each of us can do much to bring joy and hope to our world.
Let’s light our flames and spread the light!
Matt Beem is president and CEO of Hartsook, a fundraising counsel firm.