(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert

Yesterday at our church service, we began the new church year by lighting the first Advent candle. The emphasis, as always during the season of Advent, is on waiting. Watching the candle burn, I found it hard not to be reminded of how much we were waiting upon hope last December—and how it took a lot longer than just the month of December to reach the light.

And, so we give thanksgiving that somehow we all survived that bitter month and those that followed, even if scars remain, some visible and some hidden beneath the surface. The world has rotated another year and we are back, much better prepared to believe in the light.

Yet, somewhere out there, there are others who walk a path into the darkness and question where the light went. Their journey is either just beginning or, perhaps, they have gotten lost in the shadows.

Last year, when our daughter ended up in Children’s Hospital the week before Christmas, we hadn’t had time for much of a hopeful mood, let alone for decorating or shopping for Christmas. Advent was as dark as it had ever been in our home. Our family was leading a one-day-at-a-time (or hour) existence.

Children's Hospital, (c) 2009, Christiana Lambert

Once she was in the hospital, we were definitely in the proverbial “deer in the headlight” mode, just trying to figure out the hospital’s program for helping her get better, along with making twice daily trips to visit her. There wasn’t much time to contemplate the financial costs, but even though we thankfully had a maximum out-of-the-pocket expenditure, suffice it to say the healing was not going to be free.

Enter an invitation to visit the Snow Pile, Children’s annual event where families with hospitalized kids go to “shop” for those kids, as well as for siblings. Part of me thought we didn’t need such help, but that wasn’t really true. Getting healing for your child is priceless, but even middle class families with insurance are stretched when using high deductible health care plans. Besides, who has time to shop at such a time?

My daughter didn’t know about the event and my husband had to work, so I showed up early on my own to do my “shopping” before visiting hours. So far I haven’t been able to convey well enough the experience to my other family members—that “shopping” trip remains for me a glowing light in a time of deepest winter.

(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert

A volunteer escorted me through a large room piled with toys, stuffed animals, books, clothes, blankets, hats, games, etc.—but no snow! The volunteer worked from a checklist of the types of items each patient receives, as well as each sibling receives. When I told him my daughter really wanted a Slinky Dog (from Toy Story), he walked over to the mountain of toys for younger kids, searched, and found it. Before leaving, we stopped at another table for wrapping supplies. Last stop, being handed off to another volunteer who carted all the holiday goods off to my car in those little red wagons frequently used by the littlest patients at Children’s. Wow.

Then I went back to the hard tasks of visiting and meetings, but with a lighter feeling in my heart. I promised myself I wouldn’t forget. Somehow we had to help with the program in future years.

Fast forward a year (not really!) and I hadn’t really figured out how to help. When I called, I found out this year’s event is already filled with volunteers. But, what they need (frankly, what they need every week of the year, not just during the Snow Pile) is blankets for the patients.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Well, what my son needed to do was some service hours for his civics class at school. So, yesterday he did the excruciating work of standing in line at Joann Fabrics, waiting to buy polar fleece. Really, that may be the toughest part of the project, especially for any man in my family! The fabric was on deep discount, so we bought enough for eleven blankets—he’s got five done so far.

Sometimes when you’re stuck in darkness, it helps to know that someone who doesn’t even know you or your family is blanketing you with love. Charlie Brown’s friend Linus had it right—we all need something to hold onto that reminds us of hope—especially when we’re busy waiting for the light’s return.

Washington Park Sunset, (c) 2009, Christiana Lambert