Like many people, Kim Morton has had a difficult time keeping her chin up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
By the time the holidays rolled around in 2020, her depression and anxiety had gotten so bad that she shared her struggles on Facebook. A few days later, her neighbor across the street put up some Christmas lights to remind her just how much he and everyone else in their suburban Baltimore, Maryland, neighborhood cared about her.
When Matt Riggs first saw Kim’s Facebook post, he decided to string lights between their two houses to show that no matter how isolated she felt, she wasn’t alone. He also left homemade cookies on her doorstep. “I was reaching out to Kim to literally brighten her world,” Matt explained.
The pandemic hasn’t been easy for Matt either. He felt that what he and his neighbors needed was a visual reminder of how connected they still were, no matter what. As if to prove that point, without being asked, the neighborhood responded to his gesture by hanging up lights of their own. Within days, dozens of strands crossed the street from one house to the next.
“Little by little, the whole neighborhood started doing it,” Matt recalled. “The lights were a physical sign of connection and love.”
In 2021, the community came together once more to show their connection. This time, they made a party of decorating the street in November, hanging more lights than ever. Some neighbors even used wire hangers and cardboard to spell out messages, including Melissa DiMuzio, who wrote, “Love Lives Here,” outside her home.
“I’m a go-big-or-go-home kind of person,” she said. “I stayed up all night bending dry cleaning coat hangers. It was crazy, but it worked.”
Matt said seeing his idea take hold has brought tears to his eyes. “What blows my mind is that it was all organic,” he explained. “It just happened. There was no planning. It just grew out of everybody’s desire for beauty and joy and connection.”
As for Kim, seeing the lights connecting her community was exactly what she needed to lift herself out of her funk.
“It made me look up, literally and figuratively, above all the things that were dragging me down,” she said. “It was light pushing back the darkness.”
“It’s been a bright spot, truly,” Matt agreed. “It really does represent a connection that we are feeling. This is a very special neighborhood, and this is a physical manifestation of that.”
Matt’s simple act wound up affecting hundreds of area residents, many of whom have picked up the tradition on their own streets. We won’t be surprised if this idea takes off nationwide! What a beautiful way to show love for our neighbors.
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