“It is better to light just one little candle than to stumble in the dark.”
—Christian hymn (J. Maloy Roach-George Mysels)
I received an early evening call from my 28-year-old daughter, Grace. She had just watched a TikTok video about children given a trash bag to pack their things before they are taken into foster care. These children are often woken in the middle of the night by a caseworker—a stranger—who tells them that their home is no longer safe. There is little time for them to pack up their clothes, their blanket, a picture of a loved one, a pillow. They are asked to put their entire life into a trash bag in a matter of minutes. Grace spoke through her tears and asked what she could do to help. She told me this was unacceptable and demanded that we do something about it.
I knew I needed to make some calls that evening. Grace was clearly compelled to act, overcome with compassion and sadness for these children. Initially, I felt overwhelmed. Making a real difference felt like filling a Grand Canyon of need. Yet, I also didn’t want to let Grace down and understood that I needed to do what I could.
That same night, I spoke with a co-worker who let me know about Fostering Hope, an agency of caring volunteers who serve children in southeastern PA . Grace donated that night by purchasing a “dignity duffel”, a new duffel bag given to a foster child to use when placed into care or moving from one home to another. This led to Grace and I brainstorming about how to create a fundraiser to purchase more.
A few days later, I shared this story with someone at Temple Lutheran, who coincidentally shared that she grew up with one of the board members of Fostering Hope. This synchronicity of events was an acknowledgement that this was way bigger than us. A spark was lit.
A small group joined Grace and I to plan a fundraiser. Pastor Tim and several others decided on a "Christmas in July” carnival, as the church has this celebration each year. At Christmas time, Temple Lutheran raises money to provide gifts for foster care children, and this seemed like a natural fit.
One by one, church members stepped up to the plate, several helping behind the scenes. We stopped by various local businesses with flyers in hand. AJ at Centrella’s Deli asked what he could do to offer support and thanked us for working to make a difference. His kind response was heartwarming as he offered up a tray of hoagies for the event.
Sparks were flying and our team raised far more than expected. We raised over $1,600, allowing us to purchase seventy-four dignity duffel bags for Fostering Hope.
A TikTok video led to a phone call, which led to the community responding, which led to giving some children their dignity.
Once a year, we go to our attics and take our carefully wrapped ornaments out of a box to hang them on our Christmas trees. Once a year we focus on light and love and the act of giving. As Grace and I set up the tree in the sanctuary for Christmas in July, I caught myself smiling and instantly feeling the warmth of the Christmas spirit.
Sparks of light are within each of us, waiting to be made brighter by the light in others. It is what connects us. We feel it when something greater than ourselves ignites that spark. I struggle to put it into words, as it is what happens when love, faith and hope are working together for us. God works through us to shine light on others. We just need to see it. And trust that our response is enough.
We need to trust that it is better to light one little candle than to stumble in the dark.