SLOAN COLUMN: Shining the true lights of Christmas
By: Bob Sloan
I love Christmas lights. Not the glowing bulbs strung on Christmas trees or the blinking and flashing offering some sort of season’s greetings.
The Christmas lights I speak of are people who shine the true lights of Christmas, hope, peace, joy, and, by far the most important, love. When I see someone being a blessing to another in some way, the season seems so much brighter. When we give the gifts of hope, joy, peace or love to someone who really needs it, be they a friend or a complete stranger, we are shining the true lights of Christmas.
The holiday season is not easy for many. It’s hard to find Christmas joy when your heart is breaking due to a loved one who is no longer with you, or when you are fraught with worry over an illness, or depressed over the loss of a job or a relationship that recently ended. Joy can be so elusive at times, and when we look around and see others being joyful while we are not, it can make matters even worse.
Sometimes the best gifts we can give are the chance to smile, a reason to hope, some peace of mind, or just a real good hug that reminds a person they are loved and not alone.
Some mighty fine folks from Mullins and Marion and many, many other places recently shined the true lights of Christmas on a family in desperate need of hope, peace, joy and love.
Carla Peele of Mullins, a stay-at-home wife and mother of two boys, died Dec. 1 as a result of injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. She was 40. Her parents, Raymond and Jean, husband, Andrew, sons Carl-Thomas and Samuel, and the rest of her family were left shattered by Carla’s tragic and untimely death.
For them, Christmas joy will not come easy.
Tracy Beanz, a family friend, heard of Carla’s death and decided to start a GoFundMe page to help with medical expenses and to simply relieve some of the financial burdens from Andrew. The campaign began Dec. 2 with a modest goal of a few thousand dollars.
“I just felt like it would be some help to him to start this (campaign) to help with expenses and take one thing off his plate,” Beanz wrote in her initial post. “If you could find it in your heart to give to this family it would mean the world to me.
God bless you, and God bless the Peele family during this difficult time.”
In less than 48 hours, the campaign had surpassed $34,000. As of Dec. 12, the campaign’s total was just over $40,500. More than 1,100 donors have contributed, from $5 or $10 to as much a few hundred.
This was Beanz post on Dec. 4:
“Hello to all of the amazingly generous people who have given from their hearts to this campaign. It has far surpassed anything I could have hoped for. I’ve spoken with Andrew today. He wanted me to convey to you how overwhelmed he is with everything you have done here - in just a few short days over a thousand of you have taken what was one of the biggest stresses for this family and made it so that they could take a breath. He is so very grateful for each and every one of you - for the kindness you have shown and the time you have taken to share notes of support for he and his family through this difficult time. He is overflowing with thanks and gratitude for you. You may never understand what you’ve done for them. He thanks you all from the bottom of his heart.”
On Dec. 6, two days before his wife was laid to rest, Andrew Peele personally offered his thanks in a post:
“Thank you so much to everyone. I still can’t believe how many people wanted to help. My kids and I are still reeling from the sudden loss of their mother. But your compassion has given me enough breathing room to take care of my kids in a way that I couldn’t see possible before Tracy shared my story. It has truly warmed my heart and would have warmed (Carla’s) as well to see people from many different denominations, religions, faiths, political backgrounds, states and even countries show such a level of compassion for a family they did not know. We are all connected. We forget that sometimes. Thank you.”
Two days later, Andrew shared a second post expressing his overwhelming gratitude.
“I can’t thank everyone enough for their kindness. It warms my heart and would hers as well to know how many people from all walks of life showed compassion to our family regardless of if they even knew us. (Carla) had the biggest and purest heart of anyone I’ve even known, my kids and I will always miss her, but you guys have helped soften this blow with your outpouring of love. Thank you.”
Christmas will no longer be the same for the Peeles, and this year will be particularly difficult, but thanks to a thousand or so true Christmas lights, they will know that they are loved and cared for far more than they realize and that they are not alone. The gift they received through the GoFundMe can’t be measured in dollars. It came in the form of a glimmer of joy, a feeling of peace, a ray of hope, and a light of love in their darkest moments.
Folks, say a prayer for the Peele family and remember the meaning of the true Christmas lights.
“For unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given.” – Isaiah 9:6.