Karen Neff: Season’s Greetings one and all

nights-of-lights-2014-1By Karen Neff


I am very excited to have this chance to offer my thoughts and observations about what’s happening in our fair city.  So much of what’s swirling around us as a city, state and nation is unsettling.  My goal for this column is to focus on what’s right, upbeat and life-enhancing in St. Augustine and the surrounding region.  I welcome feedback, input, and your observations as well.

The obvious place to begin this piece is with the Night of Lights.  As always, it’s magical and uplifting, bringing hordes of tourists and locals to celebrate the skyline, shops, restaurants, and most importantly, our history as the country’s longest inhabited (by Europeans) city.  No, I have not been on the trolley ride (yet) but do intend to do so.  But just driving around downtown and in surrounding neighborhoods brings a smile and sometimes even a tear of gratitude to my eyes.  

With all the hustle and bustle of the season, it can be pretty easy to get pretty crabby in a pretty short amount of time.  Old timers come into my office regularly, stunned by the volume of cars, the length of time it takes to get anywhere, and all the other changes that come with growth and increased tourism.  I try to remind them and myself that we are still fortunate to be here in this place of dazzling beauty and rich history. No, it’s not like it used to be. But what is?

Another wondrous sight is the work that’s going into the rebuilding of the St. Francis House, St. Augustine’s shelter and center for the homeless people who also populate our city.  The structure was brutally damaged during Hurricane Matthew, and it’s really a terrible irony when the shelter for the homeless cannot shelter.  So what I saw the day I took some “stuff” down there was a tent filled with water, food and clothing, set up OUTSIDE in this chilly weather, staffed by someone who cares, and several workmen hammering and nailing and hauling and carrying in order to restore order and shelter for those in need.  Talk about the spirit of the season in action!!

Finally, the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, is fast approaching.  December 21 is the shortest, darkest day.  Henceforth, days will become filled with the light for longer and longer periods of time. I look forward to more light literally and metaphorically.  Yet in the meantime, may I suggest that we look for the light in unexpected places: The glow of your Christmas tree if you have one, houses decked out with lights and sometimes with sound too.  Look for the light in a child’s smile, a puppy’s wagging tail, friends and family laughing and hugging each other, and a daily gratitude list.  The light is everywhere once we decide to look for it.  Let it shine!!!

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