The Christmas tree at our house is always decorated with small white lights that shine in the darkness and create a warm glow on cold winter nights. Often I’ll sit and stare at the lights, which form an indoor constellation. On Christmas morning, my husband and I, our children, and my mother will gather around the beautiful tree and give thanks for all that we have.
Later that day, I will celebrate Christmas with our guests, mindful of the sharp contrasts they experience at this time of year. For them, the holidays mean loneliness and bone-chilling cold. The stars they see are far above the park benches, boxes, or bridges where they sleep. Every night feels like the Winter Solstice – the longest night of the year. I think about those guests every time I drive past the holiday tree in Chinatown or the Nova Scotia spruce on the Boston Common, both covered with thousands of lights. To me, each light represents one of the 6,992 men, women, and children who were counted in the city’s homeless census last year. Each of those people has a light within, as does every human being. Yet where many of us grew up in loving homes and our light became stronger and brighter, people experiencing homelessness often feel the flame growing dim. But at St. Francis House, we know how to reignite the flame – with unconditional love and acceptance. We see everyone as valued and worthy, and we reflect that image back to people until they can see it themselves.
Recently I received an email from a former guest who was homeless in 1995-96 and depended on us for hot, nutritious lunches. This man, who is now happy and successful, sent us a $1,000 donation because he has never forgotten that we offered him “a warm sanctuary on cold snowy days in Boston.” His message ended with “I want to help St. Francis House and its clients any way I can.” I could feel the light coming through his words, and I’m grateful that we helped him so much that he can now help others. I will think of him – and all of you, our loyal donors – the next time I look at my Christmas tree. Together, we create a constellation of hope that burns bright even during the darkest times.