Sometimes we intentionally spread joy. Sometimes we have no idea how our actions affect others.
About eight years ago, one of my neighbors put a live Christmas tree decorated with large, colored lights in her front yard and asked others to do the same. Six or seven neighbors showed their Christmas spirit, and my street, Hampton Leas Lane, showed off for the holidays. Before long, more houses got in on the holiday fun. Christmas spirit spread as folks began lighting up the side streets. Soon Hampton Leas neighborhood became a winter wonderland, and then the magic of Christmas Tree Lane spread throughout other nearby neighborhoods. Hampton’s Grant, Hampton’s Woods, Hampton Crest, and Old Woodlands all joined in.
Thanks to social media, neighbors formed new connections. Any time someone saw the “right lights” at Big Lots or Lowes, they bought them all and posted on the neighborhood Facebook page for anyone in need. Neighbors bonded over blown fuses and tips for getting the tree to stand up straight – even on tricky, sloping lots.
Like all good ideas, this one evolved. The neighborhood garden club took over and bought Christmas trees in bulk. It’s no small feat to organize the pick up of almost a thousand Christmas trees, but the garden club ladies met the challenge each year. Tree pick up at the park became a much-anticipated event with cookie decorating and a visit from Santa.
Corona threatened to put a damper on the tradition this year. There could be no neighborhood pick up day at the park, certainly no visits with Santa or decorating cookies. Rumors spread. Would 2020 put a stop to the spirit?
Nope. Garden club members weren’t about to let that happen. Instead of making excuses, they made it happen. Volunteers delivered trees to their neighbors and even helped with set up when needed. There wasn’t a box of big, colored lights to be found on the southeast side of Columbia.
Sunday, December 5, was a beautiful, crisp day - the perfect kind of day for outdoor decorating. People ran extension cords across front yards and hung brightly colored lights, making sure a white light representing the star sat on top of the tree. As soon as the sun went down, the neighborhood became a magical, winter wonderland.
With all the travel restrictions and event cancellations, more people than ever drove through our neighborhood to “ooh” and “ahh” over all the trees. I’m guessing only a handful of “old timers” remember when it all began with a few trees on Hampton Leas. I have lost touch with the founder of Christmas Tree Lane but would love to know what she thinks of the way her little idea took off. Did she ever dream so many houses would jump on board? Did she ever imagine the number of people who would benefit from her simple suggestion? Did she know she was a seed bearer?
Do we ever really know the impact we have on others? I hope the garden club members know they are the heroes of Hamptons/Olde Woodlands Christmas tree tradition. I can only imagine the hurdles and headaches they had to overcome, and I’m thankful for their attention to the many details. The delivery volunteers saw the fruits of the labors as neighbors offered air hugs and elbow bumps. But in the midst of all this magic, I couldn’t help but think about the woman who had what seemed to be a small, insignificant idea. She had no way of knowing that she was creating something so meaningful. The seed bearer of this story doesn’t live in our neighborhood anymore. I wonder if she still drives through to marvel at how her simple idea morphed into magic. I hope she does. She left the neighborhood but also left a Christmas legacy.
The restrictions and fears of the holidays during this pandemic seem almost unbearable. I’m thankful for people who start traditions, and I’m thankful to the people who make sure those traditions continue.
I wonder if we are all seed bearers in our own way. I wonder if some of our simplest gestures also have a ripple effect. I wonder if we unknowingly sow seeds of joy to be enjoyed years to come. I hope so.