Small But Vital Lights (and Day 1 of 7 Giveaways)

The door keeps opening and closing and my fingers are cold. The icy kind kind of cold where they’re not fingers at all, but icicles pecking away at my keyboard. 


I’m sitting in a Starbucks by the Golden Gate bridge on a crystal clear, cold day in San Francisco while my next door neighbor, Monica, attends a physical therapy appointment for her partial knee replacement. I’m here for the week, caregiving before we head home to Oregon on Saturday to dive fully into the cleaning and cooking and crazy of Christmas.

The man sitting next to me is wrapped in all black. Black ski coat, zipped to the top. Black sweat pants with baggy knees. Black knit mittens, thin and inadequate. Black holes in all those things. He’s brought his weary walking cart with his black luggage and black sleeping bag and black tarp, neatly folded, and he keeps falling asleep, exhausted. Usually he mutters, but sometimes he laughs into his long silver and white beard, and it’s when he laughs that he wakes up, takes another sip of the coffee he’s nursing, writes long strings of numbers and symbols in strange, precise, savant style on bright white paper, and drifts back to sleep. When Monica sees the paper later, she says he’s writing in Alien Language. I think she must be right.

This week, the lost are close to my heart. The lost and alone. The frightened. The hurting. The sick. The drifting. The grieving. The ones who’ve been abandoned. The folks sitting in the dark, frozen. 

Elizabeth Durant calls this a slow burn of sadness. And yes. Yes, this, exactly. 

It’s been a week with a slow burn of sadness.

In the middle of a melancholy moment last night, overcome with my inability to heal the wounds of those around me, I received a Facebook message from my friend G, in response to a question I asked him last week about the darkness and Light’s triumph over it. And G, who plays the agnostic to my crazy Christian, wrote this: 

Though I used to think of my [life] journey as a struggle through the deep, dark, cold river after which I finally reached the safety of solid ground, it turns out what I stand on continues to shift. Maybe it’s just a sand bar. As an agnostic I have no belief that I have found, or ever will step into, ultimate Light. Rather, each day is a process of rekindling my hope from the small but vital light sources around me – my partner, my choir, family and friends, the beauty of nature and music and poetry, and more.

And although I continue to believe in the Light — relentlessly, it turns out, because I can’t seem to help myself — G’s words reminded me that light lives everywhere. I believe to the marrow of my bones that every last one of us is made in Love’s image. That Light infuses all of us. But I needed G to remind me that we have access to the rekindling of hope at every turn.

A man with a cane presses the automatic door opener, blasting the cafe with cold air. I shiver and huddle deeper into my coat and blow on my fingers and wish for the door to close faster, to conserve what meager warmth we have. But the man presses the button again because he sees what I don’t; a young mama with a stroller, struggling to maneuver her way inside.

And I remember, there are lots of small but vital lights in the darkness. Little kindnesses that kindle hope. And strangers who write in Alien Language who remind me that it’s when we laugh that we wake up.


Today is Day 1 of 7 Giveaways!

I invited the 5 Kids Blog advertisers (see the column to your right) to join me for giveaways beginning today and ending late next week. CHECK BACK FOR A NEW GIVEAWAY EVERY DAY.


Today, Lindley Pless of The Sentimentalist is giving away a Good Candle from Steven Alan. Good Candles are made from 100% American-grown soy wax that burns cleanly. 

  • 1 lb. hand-poured soy wax in a mason jar
  • burns 50 hours
  • made in Brooklyn, NY
  • $30 value


This giveaway is now closed.

Congratulations to Shauna, winner of the Good Candle! Shauna writes, “Ahhh…the light at the end of this tunnel of darkness is the precious, gorgeous face of my precious granddaughter.” 

TO ENTER: Leave a comment on this blog post by 11:59pm (Pacific Time) on Saturday, December 14th. One entry per person, please. Winners will be selected using a random number generator and posted on Sunday.

This giveaway is open to international participants. International shipping provided by me.


Note: The 5 Kids Blog advertisers provided no additional compensation for these giveaways. Lindley Pless is paying for the cost of the giveaway and U.S. shipping. She paid me for her ad only, and this just seemed like a fun way to work together for your benefit. OK? OK.


 What is one of your small but vital lights in the darkness?

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