Light vs Darkness

“The light at the end of the darkness may be you.” It’s a simple phrase that I’ve used as a signature closing in correspondence for more years than I can remember.

Every now and then someone inquires as to its origin. And, from time to time, someone asks why I use it. The answer to the first question is easy. It’s a paraphrase of the closing line from an Aerosmith song. The answer to the second question is a little more involved. But mainly, it’s just a reminder to me and to anyone else who might see it that for someone you might be the brightest light in their darkness.

Her name is Bryana Peterson. A 2010 graduate of Yulee High School, she is now a twenty-one year old local resident, employed by The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. She’s engaged to Raymond Parker and the couple hopes to wed sometime in the fall of 2014. Life appears to be moving in the right direction at a comfortable pace. But there was a time when life was more struggle than promise.

In 2005, Christmas Day was set with a completely different backdrop. Mildred Standridge and granddaughter, Bryana, came to the Joy ToThe Children Christmas party as a family with limited means and limited anticipation of the season.

The two were greeted personally by their “Family Angel” and invited to join a number of other families for a Christmas Day dinner with all the trimmings. Freshly sliced turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, cornbread stuffing, and gravy were served from the all-you-can-eat buffet. Dinner was capped with a double scoop of Superman ice cream and cookies.

Shortly thereafter, Bryana was presented with fresh bed linens in her favorite color and a new pillow. She received a bundle of school supplies and a gift basket loaded with shampoo, conditioner and a myriad of other items to make getting ready for the day a more enjoyable experience for a teenage girl. She received a bag of books that were chosen for her age group and a stocking stuffed with little trinkets and knick-knacks designed to bring a little happiness to her quiet time.

Finally, Bryana and her grandma were presented with a bag of boxes that were wrapped in brightly colored Christmas paper. A mixture of clothing in Bryana’s size and favorite colors and a selection of toys that were chosen from her personal wish list were all waiting to be opened. Welcome to Christmas Day with Joy.

I met Bryana initially on Christmas Day 2011. She was sitting in the cafeteria of Yulee Senior High once again. This time, she was joined by her finance. This time, Bryana was the “Family Angel” bringing the JOY experience to a single mom and family of five. Ranging in age from 3 to 13, the kids were all treated to dinner, personal items of need, bedding, back packs filled with school supplies and age appropriate books, clothing and toys. Bryana and Raymond spent time with each child, making sure the family‚Äôs experience was everything it could possibly be.

Bryana had attended with her Grandma twice as a teenager. 2011 was her second Christmas as a volunteer. Both she and Raymond will be helping again in 2012.

As the party began to conclude, we talked quietly in the back of the room and I asked what she remembered most about that first experience in 2005. I thought there might be a stand out gift. Maybe she received something she really needed that she really appreciated. Possibly, there was an item that she still had and cherished. I didn”t know, but I had to ask.

She related that she enjoyed and appreciated all of the things she received in the two years she attended, but the one thing that had the greatest impact was, “Knowing that someone cared that I had a Christmas Day. Someone took time out of their Christmas Day so that I could have one.”

In the game Rock-Paper-Scissors, one always wins over the other without exception. So it is with Light and Darkness: Light always wins!

On Christmas Day 2005, someone was a light in Bryana Peterson’s darkness. On Christmas Day 2011, a “table angel” named Bryana Peterson was a light for someone else.

O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.
– It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

Written by: Mark Combs of