I was looking back recently over photos that I took in Guatemala last June for a project that I am working on. I came across two that I had not paid much attention to before, but which immediately warmed my heart. The first was of a young girl at an orphanage that we visited, holding an even younger child. I remembered how we were told that that older children often are tasked with helping to care for the younger ones there. The second picture was of kids running in a field in their very poor neighborhood. We were playing games like duck-duck-goose and red light/green light with them.
When we were kids, we used to sing the song "This Little Light of Mine..." on each of the four Sundays of Advent. The more that I experience the light of others, the more I appreciate the beauty of this sentiment: let your light shine. The power of this can sometimes get lost in a complex world facing many problems. These humble experiences of joy can be overshadowed by all that there is to do, and all of the suffering that people face. I have reflected on this recently: stories in the news about the continued moratorium on US adoptions of Guatemalan orphans always take me back to the children at that orphanage in Esquipulas. (I remember most profoundly Osman, a boy of seven or eight who would follow my wife and I around asking us how to say things in English.)
When we let our light shine in difficult circumstances, though, and openly receive the light of others, we are participating in the love story between God and humanity. With the birth of Christ, God also entered humbly into our midst, sharing the light and inviting us to do the same. The people whom Jesus ministered to faced many of the same problems that people around the world still face today. In the Gospel, those people are touched by the love of Jesus, and Jesus, too, is often moved by a level of faith that he does not anticipate from others.
As we approach Christmas, I feel the love of Jesus in my memories of those children in Guatemala, but also in the children here in the US that I know are reaching out to them because their teachers went on immersion. Once teacher recently told me that he was impressed that members of the student council at his school, which usually focuses mostly on planning parties, said that they wanted to do something to help the kids that their teacher met in Guatemala. The teacher who went has also launched a mission project for each grade in the school, which includes doing things like writing letters (in Spanish!) to children at that orphanage, volunteering at a local food bank, and making craft kits for children at the local Children's Hospital.
The December bulletin board in the school hall highlights some of these activities. It reads, "This little light of mine..."