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Go Forth and #Light the World

For the last few years, my family has followed the LDS #LightTheWorld service calendar during the holidays. The calendar has acts of service for each day in December accompanied by short videos.

Some suggestions require a little more effort than others. Most are things that can be done very easily, like “love your neighbors,” which reminds us to bring some fresh-baked cookies to those neighbors we’ve been meaning to meet all year. Or we’re inspired to deliver a Christmas tree to a neighbor who doesn’t have one.

Others are seemingly simple but can require more serious thought than I had anticipated, for example, “not judging others.” The supplementary video was a great reminder that we have no idea what others are going through.On this particular day, I had to deal with some very stressful and harsh interactions. It was such a blessing to me to be mindful of the reality that the people I struggled to get along with were battling wars unknown to me.

The calendar is something the whole family can do, and it offers a platform to have dialogue about many important concepts, like what it means to “take a stranger in.” It is remarkable to see how involved my children get — even the little ones. Every morning my kids ask, “What’s the light the world for today?” We look at the calendar and then watch the short video.

If you don’t have time to watch all of them, do yourselves a favor and watch this one. (Make sure to have Kleenex ready!) Then we make a game plan like, “Let’s bring dinner to that friend who just had surgery” or “Let’s make cookies and bring them to that lonely widow up the street.” Or for the “Honor your father and mother” day, in the eloquent words of my 6-year-old son, “Oh crap, we haven’t been doing that at all! We better start listening!”

On the “give to those in need” day, my 10-year-old insisted that we donate to a friend whose child had recently been diagnosed with cancer. It was easy to comply, as my toddler nephew is battling Leukemia right now, bringing childhood cancer frequently to the forefront of my mind. The remarkable thing was that later that day, we ran into a friend at the store who said, “If you haven’t done anything for Light the World today, you should consider donating to this person.” My 10-year-old excitedly exclaimed, “That’s what we did, too!!” Just think the difference made in this local family’s life if all of Sparks had the same thought stemming from this little calendar that offers gentle suggestions on how to make the world a brighter place.

New in Utah this year are service vending machines where people can literally buy everything from clean water, to a goat, to new eyeglasses  — all in a vending machine! You can offer anywhere from $2 to $75 (the most expensive item is a goat, which can offer serious stability to people in struggling economies). I hope this trend takes off like wildfire. The inspiring video shows what happens when people opt out of buying something for themselves and instead offer love to others.

#LightTheWorld has become one of my favorite Christmas traditions. When I was a little girl, my parents always did the 12 days of Christmas for families in town. They also were diligent about finding families less fortunate than we were to doorbell ditch, leaving gifts and food around the holidays. I don’t really have the words to describe what that did for the person I became. I’m not as good about serving others as my parents were while I was growing up. That makes this calendar all the more helpful in reminding me to be more aware. The experience of giving to those who are alone, struggling financially, or in heart-wrenching situations offers perspective for children that nothing else can give. In a constant climate of “I want, I want, I want,” the humility that comes from serving others is priceless. My children get to see how much we can do to improve the world around us — some days with something as simple as my 10-year-old inviting a lonely girl on the playground to join her. My daughter animatedly expressed how good that made her feel as soon as she got home.

It’s so easy to get caught up in feelings of helplessness. We are not, any of us, helpless. We all can do so much. We can change the world.

This year, I am going to make one of my New Year’s traditions to light the world year round. I am going to commit to making service a higher priority in my everyday life. After all, people are hungry, lonely, and suffering all year long.

For a complete calendar and access to videos, visit here. You’ll be glad you did!


About Lenaya Andersen

Author of, The Pathways Home: A Memoir of Sisters on Both Sides of Addiction, Lenaya Andersen is a Northern Nevada Native who cherishes swimming out to the buoys at Sand Harbor with her children. She and her husband have a “yours, mine and ours” family including three daughters and one son. When she isn’t chasing her children around or driving carpool, she is likely grading papers for her dream-job as an English professor at TMCC. Lenaya lives a life full of adventure in ways she once thought impossible. Married to an outdoorsman, her children benefit from the combination of a roller-coaster-junkie-mom and a dare-devil-dad. Passionate, enthusiastic, and short fused, she has learned that motherhood is her greatest privilege and most grueling trial. The relentless demands of her four kids are always accompanied by love and lessons only children can offer. Regardless of the curve balls, she has a “pinch me” life exceeding her wildest imagination.

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