Envying thy neighbor’s Christmas lights

  • Published
  • By Capt. Tim Jacobs
  • 452 AMW Chaplains Corps

As expected, Thanksgiving came and went like a blur and the next thing I knew it was Friday and I found myself rummaging through all the dusty bins in the garage trying to find our Christmas decorations. Right at the moment I was untangling a ridiculously long extension cord I sensed this uneasy feeling in my stomach. It wasn’t due to anything I had eaten the day before, or any other ailment. No, the more I thought about it, I realized my problem was due to nothing else than my neighbor across the street.

I could see him through the open garage door, up there on his ladder, so happy with his life. There he was, blasting Christmas music through his blue tooth speaker, smiling and waving when he saw me. “Isn’t it just a great day?” he asked. All of his lights were color coordinated and so meticulously hung across the roofline. He smothered every plant in his yard with a beautiful array of evenly-distributed bulbs; he even figured out how to wrap the giant cactus that set the stage for the whole stunning display.

Then there was my yard. I had decided I was too busy to risk life and limb to go up on the roof this time around. I’m not taking an entire day out of my already overworked life including three trips to Home Depot for 35 days of holiday cheer. So, I grabbed four of those LED projection bulbs that splatter dancing lights all over the front of your house. They’re okay but sort of faint, not like the real thing, you know? But hammer them into the ground and boom, done. Merry Christmas. And, the kids like them, so who cares? But deep down inside I felt like I punted, and everyone would know it. On his side of the street you see excellence. On mine, mediocrity. My neighbor’s house glows with pride and attention to detail. Mine says, “This dude intentionally did the absolute minimum required. What a hack.”

Isn’t that how life is, though? We’re so quick to compare our situation to someone else’s. We feel like we have to keep with others when we actually know very little about what is really going on with their lives. We are so quick to see ourselves at a disadvantage just because someone else has something that we don’t. But that is the fast track to unhappiness. In fact, I heard someone say that we should never compare our behind-the-scenes footage to someone else’s highlight reel. Yet we do it all the time, don’t’ we?

But this Christmas season we have the opportunity to see life through abundance, not scarcity. Rather than competing with my neighbor (how lame is that?) I should be grateful that every night I get to see a beautiful display of lights that remind me that the Christmas holiday is not about my lights, but about a Light; a Light that has come into the world. And if I can create some space to think about that, I’ll have captured Christmas, regardless of what my yard says!