Years ago, when I was a boy, a man in town had this amazing Christmas display in his yard. He wasn’t the wealthiest person in town. He wasn’t the most technically gifted. He wasn’t privately funded and didn’t have an illustrious job or home. Generally speaking, his setup wasn’t even the best in town every year.
But it did get better every time, without exception, and he always improved it until shortly before he passed when he couldn’t do it anymore.
For me, it was inspiring but not because of Christmas itself or the time of year. I was inspired because this person, who was clearly not living an illustrious life of any kind, found a way to give something to his community that would make people smile.
There were trains in his yard, 1980s era animatronics, a large-scale diorama-style church, and much more.
Every year he added a little more, tweaking something here or there. Every year I’d visit it, feeling some aspect of the magic he was creating.
I’d see the kids walking around his yard looking at everything – this was not a drive-by display. Parents holding their little ones’ hands and pointing things out. People out in the cold, stomping their feet and carrying hot drinks, but still getting out of their cars to see it all, no matter what mother nature gifted us with.
There were several years where I drove from a great distance to see it, just one more time. One year I came home from an internship at Disney and one of the first things I did was go see his show.
There wasn’t an award in town for the best Christmas light show, so it never got him notoriety in town. He just wanted to do something for others that might make a difference.
Every community needs people who have hearts, want to see their effort, and give smiles and meaning to others. There’s something exceptional to be said about giving.
Try something small to start. Before I got on boards or committees in the community, I started keeping toys in my office in case kids are ever around – I gave them out if ever a child visited the area. I’ve been doing it for over a decade, making little smiles as I go.
It’s totally worth it, every single time.
You can volunteer for your community, you can get involved in local efforts to improve the world around you; you can show up where others don’t. You can build a legacy people will remember, even if they never knew your name or your face. They can know the good you did.
After all, isn’t that why you’d want to help to begin with?
To finish the story about the Christmas display…
After the man passed away, someone from the community worked to restore his collection, another unknown person who made a difference. I visited the restored display with my family last night. I watched their faces and the faces of other visiting kids come to life as we looked at it all.
Thankfully, the good he did will live well past him. Shouldn’t we all strive to have a legacy like that – to do so much good that it lives on even if our names are forgotten?