Today’s post is the monthly reflection from the October 2004 issue of  The Front Porch Newsletter.  If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.

luminaries-thumb-400x300I remember my first Christmas Eve in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was a stunning sight to see the thousands of luminaries lining the sidewalks and cement walls of churches and neighborhoods throughout the city. Each small brown bag with its single candle played its simple role in creating a magnificent sight. Nothing fancy — just quietly beautiful. Simplicity was their very essence.

The lighted bags seemed to stand at humble attention in honor of the simple birth at Christmas. And ever since, like an old favorite song, every luminary I see takes me back to my first Southwest Christmas in Albuquerque.

At least that was the case until earlier this month.

The luminaries appeared early this year. Homes throughout our neighborhood lined their sidewalks with simple traditional luminaries. It started at a few homes and quickly spread throughout. It wasn’t Christmas. But it was a reflection of community — a community pulling together to honor its fallen soldier.

It was the ring of a door bell that every soldier’s parent fears — the tragic news that your child has been killed in combat. Our neighbors, Cindy and Bernie Hennessy, had to answer that bell the night of Friday, October 1st. Of course, there are no words to describe the depth of their pain. The community stood still as the war in Iraq hit home. In the days ahead, Cindy and Bernie would stand tall and be strength for all who grieved the loss of their son.

At such times, it is so hard to know what to say — realizing there is little you can say. Maybe that is why so many neighbors lined their sidewalks with hundreds of luminaries for several cool autumn nights. Those lighted brown bags said all that needed to be said — we stand together caring and loving you in your tragic loss.

It was understood that these luminaries would light the darkness of this tragedy each night until the body of Sgt. Jack Hennessy arrived home in Naperville and was laid to the respectful rest he deserved. And so they continued to shine each night.

As I drove through the neighborhood at night, I was reminded of the power of genuine community. The power of people coming together rather than living isolated lives. It reminded me that people really do care.

Twelve days later, Jack was laid to rest. That night, as I turned out the lights to head up to bed, I took one last look at the luminaries that lined our own sidewalk. I reflected on those simple bags. Each, with its simple light, seemed to be standing at silent attention saluting our fallen soldier — and the neighborhood he called home.