COLUMN: Let your light shine


Christmas is known as the season of light. It’s the time of year when Christians all over the world celebrate the birth of the light in the person of Jesus. That’s why our home and trees are illuminated – it’s a reference to the light God gave us in a world of increasing darkness. However, there are a few times in your life when you are fortunate enough to see The True Light. This is one of those times. This is my story. 

I was backstage at the Comedy Club, waiting to do a holiday show, when the owner burst into the green room. He told me my mom had been in a wreck and I needed to get to the hospital immediately. I ran to my car. All manner of thoughts began racing through my mind as I raced downtown.  

I bolted in the emergency room and saw my sister, Paula, who was sitting between my aunt and a young black woman. Paula stood up, escorted me to a corner and told me everything she knew. It wasn’t good. Someone “t-boned” Mom’s car on the driver’s side as she pulled out on a main road after taking my aunt home. The black woman sitting beside my sister, Carla, was a nurse who not only witnessed the wreck, but was the first person to attend to Mom.  

She and her family were living in an apartment above the convenience store that faced the road. Seconds after the collision, she ran to the mangled vehicle, opened the passenger door, and through the fog of the deployed air bag found my mother. In seconds, Carla began to use her nursing skills like she had never done before. Mom was breathing, but badly injured and going into shock. Carla immediately dialed 911, then pulled mother’s phone from her purse and called the last person visible on the screen – my Aunt Eileen. When Eileen told Carla she didn’t drive, Carla picked her up and followed the ambulance to the hospital.  

There she sat like a member of our family: a complete stranger, a black woman, the living embodiment of the Good Samaritan. Carla patiently waited with us until well after midnight when the doctor called the family in for consultation. Without hesitation, we brought Carla into the meeting. Although mother was lucid and actually talking with the nurses, she had life-threatening injuries that would require extensive surgery immediately. At that point, all of us prepared ourselves for an all-night vigil in the lobby. We insisted that Carla leave, which she did reluctantly, but not before taking my aunt home.  

The next day we learned that Carla and her family were also facing great adversity. Earlier in the year, lightning had struck their home and it burned to the ground. They lost almost everything. The small apartment they were living in was a stopgap measure until they found a better alternative. 

In the meantime, my mom was fighting for her life – but not without help. While visiting mother, Paula my found Carla in her ICU room praying aloud for her healing. My family marveled how Carla was so concerned about a complete stranger during a time when her own life was so difficult.  

It was time for our family to give back to hers. 

My brother and two sisters took up a collection and did some Christmas shopping for Carla, her husband and their two children. We brought presents for everyone, wrapped them carefully, then invited her to my mother’s garden home a few days before Christmas. After opening all the gifts, we presented Carla and her husband with some cash to help them get in a better apartment.  

Tears flowed as she hugged each one of us, saying, “I don’t deserve this, I don’t deserve this!” 

I responded through tears of my own, “This is the way it’s supposed to work. God put you in our path to help us, and in turn, we were put in your path to help you. It’s a blessing for both of us.”  

My mother died on Christmas Eve. I’m sure Christmas Day was better for her than it was for us. At the funeral three days later, Carla was naturally in attendance, sitting with us in the pews reserved for family – because she was. Every one of us learned firsthand that God intends Christmas to be a time when we give of ourselves.  

Every year when we put up our Christmas tree, and the lights come on for the first time, I recall the night when the light of a stranger came into our lives in a time of need. I think of Carla. I count myself fortunate that I saw The True Light reflected through her.  

Joe Hobby is a comedian from Alabama who wrote for Jay Leno for many years. Find more of Joe’s stories on his blog: Follow him on Facebook at Joe Hobby Comedian- Writer.