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Man Supports Neighbor with Christmas Lights

It started in November with a single string of Christmas lights on a Baltimore County street. Kim Morton was home watching a movie with her daughter when she received a text from her neighbor who lives directly across the road. He told her to peek outside.

Matt Riggs had hung a string of white Christmas lights, stretching from his home to hers. He also left a tin of homemade cookies on her doorstep. The lights, he told her, were meant to reinforce that they were always connected.

Riggs said, “I was reaching out to Kim to literally brighten her world.” He knew his neighbor was facing a dark time. Morton had shared that she was dealing with depression and anxiety. She was also grieving the loss of a loved one and struggling with work-related stress. The mounting pressure led to panic attacks.

A bit of brightness was in order, he decided, but he certainly did not expect that his one strand of Christmas lights would somehow spark a neighborhood-wide movement. In the days that followed Riggs’ light-hanging gesture, neighbor after neighbor followed suit, stretching lines of Christmas lights from one side of the street to the other.

When Leabe Commisso, who lives on the other end of the block, saw what Riggs had done, she wanted in. She said, to her neighbor, “Let’s do it, too. Before we knew it, we were cleaning out Home Depot of all the lights.”

Quickly, other neighbors caught on. Kim said, “Little by little, the whole neighborhood started doing it. The lights were a physical sign of connection and love.”

She and Riggs were stunned to see neighbors with drills and ladders, up on their rooftops and tangled in trees, doing whatever they had to do to hang the lights. For the first time in a long time, a feeling of togetherness—and light—had returned.

Riggs said, “What blows my mind is that it was all organic. It just happened. There was no planning. It just grew out of everybody’s desire for beauty and joy and connection.”

But the impromptu effort has perhaps had the most profound impact on the person for whom it was originally intended. Kim said, “It made me look up, literally and figuratively, above all the things that were dragging me down. It was light pushing back the darkness.”

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