When I read about the Light the World campaign in November 2016, I was excited for the potential this effort had to bring holiday cheer into our home. Four months earlier, our family of six had moved from our Cache Valley home of nine years to a new one in Davis County, Utah.
We were a mere hour away from the only neighborhood and friends our kids had ever known, but the distance seemed 10 times that as unpacking, new schools and navigating a new city took over our lives. We needed some light and peace in our home because, although our new neighborhood had been welcoming and accepting, moving had emotionally ripped our hearts out.
As the days for the launch of Light the World crept closer, I became more eager. On the website, Elder David A. Bednar, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, stressed the importance of keeping things simple and not overcomplicating the Light the World idea, but I was determined to go beyond mere simplicity.
Not only would we watch the daily video clips, but, despite my dislike of crafts, I planned to complete elaborate creative projects with my kids. We’d go on multiple family holiday outings, creating wonderful memories while basking in the season. Instead of the small acts of service suggested, we’d make them large ones and ooze holiday cheer. Our light was going to be so bright we’d practically set the world on fire.
Then I found out I was pregnant.
My fifth pregnancy went a lot like my others. I was emotional, irrational and tired. No wait, I wasn’t tired; I was exhausted. Although we were ecstatic about expanding our family, because I was only in the very beginning stages, my husband and I decided we wouldn’t tell others, including our kids and extended families, until the New Year.
Even though I could barely keep my eyes open many days, I was determined to continue the activities I’d planned. On Dec. 1, I gathered my four children together and presented a special box filled with envelopes. Each contained the service ideas from the Light the World handout as well as other adventures I’d planned for the day. My kids were delighted and looked forward to opening the envelopes each morning.
At least, they looked forward to it the first three days. By Dec. 4, my fatigue had reached epic levels. I didn’t mention lighting the world to my kids and hoped they’d forget about it as well. After several days passed, my oldest asked what had happened about our plans to Light the World. While lying on the couch, I opened a browser on my phone and told her to show her younger siblings the video clips we’d already missed. While they watched, I dozed. When they then asked about that day’s activity, I told them to watch a Christmas movie. They scurried off to the TV while I fell back asleep.
Dec. 11, 2016, was a sad day for me. By that time, I’d put the special box away, hoping if it was out of sight, my kids would forget about the promised holiday activities. My pregnancy fatigue had been joined by a massive dose of hormones and, in my emotional state, I told myself I had failed my job as a mother to bring my children closer to Jesus Christ because we had not been participating in Light the World. The little voice in my heart that reminded me of Elder Bednar’s advice to do small things went unheeded. I had neglected to Light the World; that failure was so monstrous that we might as well cancel Christmas.
Two days later, on Dec. 13, some light entered our home by the simple ringing of our doorbell. I opened the front door to find a potted poinsettia flower sitting on our porch with a letter attached. I brought the flower inside and read the note to our family. In it, we were told the poinsettia was the first of 12 gifts we’d be receiving. Dumbfounded, I realized we were going to be the recipients of the 12 days of Christmas, something that had never happened before.
The first gift of the anonymous 12 days of Christmas the Reids received during the 2016 Christmas season. | Elizabeth Reid
My kids were overjoyed and started wondering who our Christmas elves were and what we’d get next. For the next 11 days, our doorbell rang every night at different times. All the gifts were simple and, from the Christmas globes to the hot chocolate, each was appreciated. My favorite gift was the small package of Christmas-themed paper plates and napkins. That night, as we ate off disposables, I was thankful I wouldn’t have the usual after-dinner dishes to tackle; the simple gift of paper plates had made me happy and peaceful.
By Christmas Eve, my failure at participating in the Light the World initiative had been long forgotten as we opened the door to find our final gift on the porch. A box of doughnuts, with a letter, was waiting for us. My children ate the doughnuts while I read, and then reread, the short note. In it, our Christmas elves voiced how glad they were we’d moved into the neighborhood.
But it was their expression of thankfulness, about how serving us had helped their children learn to serve others, that made me realize we actually had participated in the Light the World campaign. Even though we had been the recipients, instead of the givers of service, our house had helped light the world because of the light someone else had brought into it.
Although I’d failed to light the world for others, I was grateful someone had chosen to follow a prompting and light the world for us. This year, as my family participates in the 2017 Light the World initiative, I hope that, through small efforts this time, we can help make the Christmas season a little brighter for someone else.
Thanks to the efforts of our still-anonymous friends, I now understand better how small acts of kindness can powerfully impact not only a hormonal pregnant woman, but an entire family and how important the light in each small family world is.
Elizabeth Reid thinks the Great Depression is fascinating, so she earned bachelor's degrees in both economics and history. A wife and mother, she blogs at agoodreid.blogspot.com.