This is what I’d like to tell all you decorating wizards. Thank you. Your efforts reap much more than you can imagine. To lift the spirits of strangers is a gift. It sounds ironic, but holiday cheer is hard to come by during the busy month of December. There are parties, concerts and plays to rush to after work. Making a potluck dish for 35 is no joke. Though love motivates our inner shoppers, the joy that comes with gift giving typically starts with a price tag.

The stringers of lights are unsung heroes. Holiday magic was almost mine as I detangled yards and yards of multicolored lights. Is there anything worse than artfully arranging a fireplace garland of lights only to find it doesn’t light up? Yes, there is. It’s an hour of winding branches with tiny lights only to discover that half the bulbs twinkle. But the absolute worst is being asked, “Well, why didn’t you test the lights first?”


I angrily dumped armloads of Christmas lights into the garbage. Now that’s "peace on Earth," and I huffed outside for a late afternoon walk. Striding along, I pondered the irony, “How can so much bad energy be connected to creating holiday magic?”


Nearby, a house took on a gingerbread outline in lights. Elsewhere shrubs lit up like red and green gumdrops and dark windows were brightened by candlelight. Everywhere shapes and forms sparkled, replacing my aggravation with wonder.


I wondered, “I’m done in by 50 feet of lights, but they manage to have six miles of lighted icicles in working order. How is that done?”


Feeling jealous, I walked on, the darkness cloaking my Grinchiness. As the cold air began to clear my head, it was hard not to be moved by the dazzling home displays before me. Who are these strangers who spent hours wrestling with cords, climbing ladders, stringing lights, and why do they do it? Maybe it’s a family tradition, or their way of getting into the swing of the season. Maybe it’s the pride of having a great holiday house front. I marveled at the labor, hair-pulling and perseverance required. 


The neighborhood radiance worked its magic on me. Slowly, my frustration ebbed away. I realized such splendor comes but once a year, and savoring it filled me with a childish delight. I was fully present in a beautiful moment, not because I willed it so, but because the winter artistry created by others transformed my mood.


This is what I’d like to tell all you decorating wizards.


Thank you. Your efforts reap much more than you can imagine. To lift the spirits of strangers is a gift. It sounds ironic, but holiday cheer is hard to come by during the busy month of December. There are parties, concerts and plays to rush to after work. Making a potluck dish for 35 is no joke. Though love motivates our inner shoppers, the joy that comes with gift giving typically starts with a price tag.


Yet the goodwill of your festive displays is all freely given – fascinatingly, amazingly, unfathomably free (though I can appreciate how your electric bill tells you differently). Your sparkly house front sends a message of warmth and caring. After doing all that work? Obviously, you care.


This is the time of year when our thoughts turn to making others happy. Family gatherings are planned. Gifts will be wrapped for children in need. Donations will be made. Coats are collected and volunteers will serve in kitchens.


Add to these good souls another set of givers. The stringers of lights are unsung heroes because in the frigid darkness, a stranger’s spirit is refreshed. A walk or a drive down gaily lighted streets conjures up yesteryear feelings, nostalgic and warm.


So thank you – those who hoist Santa and his reindeer sleigh upon your rooftop or those who place a beribboned wreath in every window (and wow, your house has a lot of windows!). Your painstakingly work to wind evergreens and red bows around your porch or balcony is appreciated. Most of all, I am especially thankful whenever I spot a Nativity scene because so much hope is pinned to the birth of a child, and for those who celebrate a religious Christmas, it is a promise fulfilled.


I returned home with a novel view on “goodwill toward men.” It’s a pity stringing lights will never be my forte, but I now realize that encouragement can take place even when the giver is unaware. I opened the garbage lid but decided to leave my own Christmas lights in the trash. What do you know? That feeling of “peace on Earth” was still with me.  God bless us every one!


E-mail Suzette Standring at suzmar@comcast.net. Watch her TV shows about writing, “It’s All Write with Suzette,” on www.vimeo.com.