Every time it rains, I remember the little girl in the plastic wrap.


She lived about three blocks from our elementary school in a sagging white clapboard house with broken steps leading to the large front porch, cluttered with old furniture and dirty toys. The front door's screen was ripped in so many places a person could see straight into the house. When my mother drove me to school, she took the back roads leading out of our fine neighborhood, past tenement housing and then, just over the railroad tracks, the little girl's home.


I don't even remember her name, but I remember her walking to school one day wrapped in some sort of plastic sheet because it was pouring rain and she didn't have a rain coat. I remember that when I told my mother about it later — tears rolling down my cheeks because a few of the kids had teased her - my mother declared that we "had to do something about this."


And we did. We went to my full closet and pulled out every single item I could no longer wear, got back in the car and then drove to her home where we politely offered the clothes to her mother.


I remember my mother saying something like, "My daughter is just a little bigger than your daughter...it would mean a lot to her if your daughter could enjoy these clothes as much as she has."


I remember my mother instructing me not to tell anyone at school that we had done this. Dignity, she said, though I hardly knew what the word meant.


It seems my mother was always helping someone. Her life was and is filled with a menagerie of friends and people to whom she has endeared herself. When I was old enough to be like-minded I found myself following her path, discovering that a heart always open never really stops beating.


The Concept of Salt & Light


What my mother was teaching her child - and what I have tried to teach my children - is the concept of what Jesus called "salt and light."


"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden." (Matthew 5:13-14)


Salt has the capacity to bring out the flavor in food. It preserves. It causes that which might otherwise be bland to become tasty and desirable. Light, to me, is such an interesting thing. It does not bring attention to itself but rather that which it falls upon. As Christians, we have the ability to shine a light on the mind and heart of Christ...to illuminate that which is by its very nature dark and, in turn, to cast that darkness aside. To push it away forever.