For most of the year, I’m perfectly happy with shadows and darkness.  But the approach of winter solstice awakens in me an almost primal need for illumination, as evidenced by my recent household projects.

Setting up our life-sized crèche, powered by six extension cords:

Installing the Lego lighting kit in my little VW Bus.
Oooooh!  Ahhhhh!
Headlights, tail lights, signal lights, and overhead cabin lights:

Decorating my lime tree with a garland of twinkling stars:

Writing another Lanturne:

In the Manger


But light can be metaphorical as well as literal.  I drove out to Dollar General yesterday to buy some non-perishable items for our Little Free Pantry.  I had already shopped there three times during the week and accumulated three coupons for $5 off a $25 order, all redeemable 22 Dec 18, not to be combined with any other coupon or offer.  I pushed my cart through the grocery aisles tossing in beans, vegetables, fruits, canned meats, pastas, sauce, macaroni and cheese, and jars of peanut butter.  Then some holiday items: cinnamon, ginger and vanilla, poultry seasoning, Stove Top stuffing, cranberry sauce, cookie mixes, frosting and sprinkles, hot chocolate and marshmallows.  I knew I had gone way over budget and briefly considered putting all the frivolous items back, but a voice inside assured me that I would be able to afford everything.

Just one register was open.  The clerk was hesitant to let me divide my order into three piles and use all three coupons, but she relented when I explained the food would be donated to charity.  Checking out took a while.  The line grew longer and the customers behind me grew antsy.  As the clerk scanned the final pile of groceries, a man in the line leaned toward me, held out his credit card and said, “This is the card you’ll want to use for that, Miss.”  It was the most expensive of the three piles, well over $50.  I asked if he was sure.  “Positive,” he smiled.  He’d overheard enough to figure out what I was doing and wanted to help.  The rest of the customers nodded approvingly, their irritation forgotten.  Greetings and blessings were exchanged and afterward, we parted ways, each of us touched by the glow of goodwill, carrying it like a torch into the cold, gray afternoon.

Merry Christmas!  May you all be bearers of the light.

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13 thoughts on “ALL IS CALM, ALL IS BRIGHT

  1. Tippy Gnu December 22, 2018 / 11:28 pm

    Nice story. Looks and sounds like there’s a lot of beautiful light in your life today. Something similar happened to my wife today. She was buying some toys for a family of underprivileged children when the lady in front of her handed her $40 to go buy some more.

    I like your poem, also. It even looks like a lantern.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan December 23, 2018 / 9:05 am

      Thanks, Tippy. I meant to do my good deed on the sly. The other customer only figured out what I was doing because he heard me tell the clerk, and I only told her so she’d let me use all my coupons. But it was amazing how everyone’s mood changed as they witnessed it. Cranky folks were suddenly patient and smiling, wishing each other happy holidays, helping me load all the bags into my cart. People are good-hearted and they want to help. They are eager to jump in when someone else takes action, like the lady who was inspired to donate by your wife’s generosity. The poetry form is called Lanturne, the Japanese spelling of lantern, I guess. May your days be merry and (increasingly) bright! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Aunt Marilyn December 23, 2018 / 10:52 am

    Joan…what a wonderful story of the goodness of people especially at this time of year. I have a similar relationship with a checkout gal at our local Big Lots. Blessings to you this Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan December 23, 2018 / 2:56 pm

      A merry Christmas to you and yours as well. In the final paragraph of my annual Chronicle, I spoke about a woman I’d helped. Her name is Marilyn (easy to remember!) I’ve seen a lot of people stepping up in the last few years to help the less fortunate. A friend of mine gives toys to local underprivileged kids; it started small (what he could afford) and grew as other people learned about it and began to donate toys and money. A local business donated $200 to our free pantry. Low-income villagers can request gifts via the Share the Joy tree at the library, and others fulfill the tickets. Two years ago, I was delivering cookies (wearing my elf hat) and two other elves revealed themselves: one had red and white striped tights on and the other wore full elf gear under her coat. ‘Tis the season. 😉


  3. murisopsis December 24, 2018 / 7:40 pm

    Good deeds begat other good deeds! I love that people were able to have an attitude adjustment just by witnessing your actions. I have to admit this story hit me in the feels. Merry Christmas!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan December 24, 2018 / 11:31 pm

      Thanks, Muri, that’s exactly what I was aiming for! Often, people will get on the Do-Gooder Highway if you just show them the on-ramp. Merry Christmas! 🙂


    • Just Joan December 28, 2018 / 5:31 pm

      Thanks, KE. How things played out was better than I could have imagined; it had to have been planned by The Big Guy. I hope it will keep rippling outward. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. L. T. Garvin, Author January 2, 2019 / 9:46 pm

    Such a lovely little Lanturne! What really got me was the wonderful story. There is still plenty good in the world, we just don’t hear as much about it. Thank you for helping to bring some light into the lives of others, Joan. Such a wonderful thing. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan January 3, 2019 / 11:03 am

      Thanks, Lana. Some stories demand prose, they just won’t bend into a particular poetry form. I thought about turning back a dozen times… just stay home and relax, you’ve spent too much already, there will be another coupon next week, the free pantry looked well-stocked when you went by… As I shopped, the old internal censor would say to get more beans and canned meat and less winter/holiday stuff, less of everything, every starving person isn’t your responsibility, you know, your VISA bill is coming and it’s going to be ugly… But what a treat it would be for a mom to find those little extras, to be able to make cookies with her kids and leave some for Santa, or send them off to the sledding hill with a big Thermos of hot chocolate. I told the old Grinch to hush up and wheeled my cart to the check-out. How it went down after that was a complete surprise. When we are willing servants, God finds a way. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. circumstance227 February 23, 2019 / 5:33 pm

    So this is the life-sized creche with an extra Baby Jesus? Nice! As is the story in the checkout line.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan February 23, 2019 / 5:48 pm

      Yes, it is. Extra Baby Jesus is not displayed, but kept in the garage in case of a Jesus Emergency. Funnily enough, the two are not identical twins. One looks holy, like the Lord of Hosts; the other is smaller and looks more cuddly, like a Cabbage Patch doll. 🙂


      • circumstance227 February 23, 2019 / 5:52 pm

        Boy, it has been a long time since my last Jesus Emergency. I would go with the Cabbage Patch option. A lordy looking baby sounds kind of creepy.

        Liked by 1 person

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