Lighting the World - France - 2020
With the homeless in the streets and refugees sleeping in the parks of Paris, France, the need for help is present daily before our eyes, even during the Christmas season. Two friends and I decided to form a community group called Solidarity to Act Together to help where we can befriend newcomers and find ways to help them in their struggles.
With the support of many volunteers throughout the community and various churches in Paris, we organized Light the World activities to help our brothers and sisters in need. Bakeries, grocery stores, and food shops were generous in their contributions, and people were thoughtful in their gifts for people who must live each day in the outdoors, and sleep in tents at night.
For three years in a row, we’ve held a year-end Light the World event where artists, volunteers, and guests from a variety of churches and organizations in Paris come to perform and donate supplies to those in need. It takes months of preparation, but volunteers and performers have experienced such immense joy participating in the event. None of them want to miss it. For this event, we invited our homeless refugee friends who had been artists before they were forced to flee their homes, to participate.
We prepared and gathered backpacks filled with hygiene products to distribute to refugees and homeless people in Paris. We also gathered blankets, sheets, pillows, sporting goods, shower sandals, and even a bicycle, to help our refugees friends.
As part of last year’s event we also put on a fashion show during the event. For a 22-year-old stylist who participated, he said the support he received gave him strength to believe in his abilities. As he spoke with me, I was reminded that everyone needs to feel needed and that all of us are in need in some way.
Our event for 2020 looked very different. We had expected even more participants and activities, but COVID made that dream impossible. Instead we focused on making sure our refugee friends were okay during the pandemic. Some of our volunteers and partners have offered warehouses and refrigerated vans to help us in our work with community and commercial agencies to provide balanced meals for those in need. We have also been offering outdoor free French lessons for those learning French as a second language.
I find that serving in a noble cause brings indescribable joy. Small actions can build individuals in remarkable ways - it can build those in need as well as those who are giving.
Lighting the World - Art, Service, and Love
"By December 2019 the need in Paris was so overwhelming and had been for a long time. I couldn’t look away. In fact, deep down I felt a call to help." A story of ingenuity, boldness, and partnership helped meet the needs of hungry displaced people in France.
Notre Dame reminds me of the tradition of sanctuary, offering refuge and aid to those in need, especially strangers and foreigners. As heartbreaking as it is to see the destruction of Notre Dame, it has been heartening for me to witness from afar the entire city of Paris gathering in solidarity and pledging to rebuild.