Marc stood in the window of Baker’s Department Store watching the toy train meander around the winding tracks. “Look, Momma! The train is working tonight!” he exclaimed as his mother ran up to him.
“Marc, you can’t run ahead of me like that,” Tara scolded. “You have to stay close to me. The sidewalks are filled with people and I lost sight of you. You frightened me. You were not being safe.”
Tara knelt down and placed her hands on Marc’s shoulders. “You have to stay close to me, do you understand?” She sternly admonished as she looked her six year old son in the eyes.
“Yes, Momma, I understand. I didn’t mean to scare you. I just wanted to see the train,” Marc said softly lowering his chin to his chest.
Tara pulled Marc into a hug and whispered, “I know, baby. I’m not scared anymore.” She took a deep breath and stood as she slowly exhaled, “Now let’s look at that train.”
Marc smiled and returned his attention to the train display. Tara smiled down at Marc as he focused on the train. She was excited about Christmas for the first time in a long time. This year Marc would get his wish, a train set. Sgt. Dallas at the Toys for Tots Center had called to say someone donated a few train sets and they would deliver Marc’s gifts tonight. “He’s going to be so happy,” she thought.
“Marc, honey, we need to get going. It’s getting late. Tonight is Christmas Eve and you want to get to bed early.”
They started walking towards the Park ‘N Pay lot a few blocks away. Marc suddenly stopped and said, “Momma, I need to go see Santa.”
“Marc, it’s too late,” Tara said as she studied his serious face. “Why do you need to go see Santa?”
“I need to tell him I change my mind about the train set. I want a lighthouse.”
“Why do you want a lighthouse?”
“Ms. Stephie taught us a poem today about a lighthouse and I want one,” Marc explained.
Tara raised her eyebrows and asked, “What did the poem say that makes you want a lighthouse instead of a train?”
“It goes like this, Lighthouse, lighthouse standing tall and strong, Shine your light to guide the way home,” Marc recited the poem as he stood up very straight, extended his right arm to his chin, and made flashing gestures with his fingers as he turned in a circle. “I want a lighthouse to put in the window. Maybe it will help Daddy find his way home.”
Tara’s eyes filled with tears. Marcus had been missing in action for three months. He and three crew members were involved in an accident during a training exercise, but had not been located in the wreckage. The Marine Corps sergeant who delivered the news told her Marcus and his team were believed to be held as prisoners of war by Somali insurgents. She had later received a telephone call that their location may have been detected, but no further information was available. She was still hopeful that Marcus would return safely.
“Oh, honey. That is such a good idea, but Santa has already left. Let’s go home and draw Daddy a lighthouse. We can put it in the window for him to see it.”
“Ok, Momma. Can we put stars on it? Stars shine bright too.”
“Can we paint the lighthouse red? And can we put a train around it?” Marc started adding a list of ideas to the picture as they made their way to the car.
I love to look at lighthouses. I remember touring a lighthouse once when I visited San Diego as a fourteen year old. I became fascinated with the height, the winding stairs, and how it looked out over the ocean. It always seemed perfectly normal to me for people to make their homes inside abandoned lighthouses or built their homes with small towers that look like lighthouses. They represented safety in my mind. Now I paint them, I draw them, and collect them.
Lighthouses are often referred to as symbols of hope. Lighthouses have been known for helping ships find their way to safety during bad weather, providing warning against getting to close to dangerous rocks, and standing as a point of reference. I use a lighthouse as a symbol to represent myself with my students quite often. I tell them I am a light that is here to help them find their way through learning difficult math concepts, and making good choices in life.
As you are celebrating this holiday season, I pray that you will find a way to be a “lighthouse” in someone’s life by spreading holiday cheer and shining the love of the Savior on family, friends, and strangers alike.
Isaiah 42:6 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
I chose you to bring justice, and I am here at your side. I selected and sent you to bring light and my promise of hope to the nations.