Rudolph the reindeer has hung around a little longer than normal this year.
Each December, a mysterious transformation takes place on a deer crossing sign in our community. Someone places a blinking red light on the nose of the deer to turn the street sign into a Rudolph decoration on the road that leads us home.
It’s one of my absolute favorite signs of the holiday season. It makes me smile, this speck of colorful light in the darkness. It creates a sense of wonder. It lets me know I’m almost home.
I started but was unable to finish a couple blog posts during the end of 2016. Days did not go as planned. Friends were in the hospital. Family members received heart-breaking news. Division, disenchantment and disorder were common themes in the news and on social media.
Heartache doesn’t take a break during the holidays, it appears.
As I sat with the sadness, I wanted to reach out and do something, anything that could bring hope to this world. To what overlooked or marginalized group should I give the extra energy and time I possess?
Over time, I was gently reminded that sometimes (maybe oftentimes) it needs to be those I’m in closest contact with who need my time and attention first. Sometimes I lose sight of those relationships I have been personally entrusted with–within my own walls, under my own roof, in my own neighborhood and place of work. My heart slowly softened to the idea that I could make a difference within my home team.
Shauna Niequest wrote about having a “home team” in her book “Bittersweet”:
In addition to the excerpt above, she wrote, “There is a totally finite amount of time and energy that each of us have to give to the people in our lives… The home team concept is about making sure that the people who deserve my energy and love and attention get it before it’s sucked up by people who have their own home teams.”
If I’m perfectly honest, my husband and three kids along with my parents and two sisters seem to be the “charter members” of my home team. No one else could take their place – we have too much history and too many experiences that keep us tethered in love to one another.
My team also includes brothers-in-law, cousins, girlfriends and families we came to know through our kids’ friendships. And then there are the small group members who have functioned as our family. They span many states and include members from various stages of life who continue to challenge and inspire our family.
What does our home team do? We show up in the practical things of life. We give rides to the airport, share carpool, watch over pets and houses while away. Together, we play games, share meals, discuss books, debate faith and religion.
My home team is really good at celebrating. We jump at the chance to gather for birthdays and holidays. We rally around our favorite sports teams, taking credit for their victories. We cheer on one another kids’ in their endeavors, as well as celebrate their milestones and accomplishments.
My home team also brings significance and support to my life. We go on long walks and share meaningful talks. We comfort one another through job losses and life changes. We recommended authors and counselors and doctors when we need direction. We show up with bread and desserts in the midst of trying days.
These people have helped me to be at home in my own skin and personality. They all have guided me to becoming the individual I was created to be. And when life gets a little crazy, they remind me of my roots and point me home.
My home team has been a living metaphor of community and the realization that I need people… and they need me too. My sister gave me a sign for Christmas that serves as a reminder to this end:
That little red blinking light is typically gone from the sign by the first week of January. For some reason, the light has remained a little later this year. I believe it is a continuing reminder to be grateful for those who have shined light in my journey, who have helped me find my way home.