The Gift of Light

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How a well-lit porch led a young man to new friends and a new kind of life.

Dread gripped young Sam* as he sat at his bedroom window, bathed in the pale blue hues of an Alaskan arctic twilight. Each passing minute dissolved the last slivers of light into the black of nightfall. 

Ever since he could remember, evening had brought fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. His heart jumped as the voices of arriving guests echoed from the next room, answering the nightly call to party in his village home. People of all ages — parents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, older siblings, all in some stage of drunken delirium — filled the smallest pockets of space in the tiny, smoke-filled living room.

Every night was the same. Someone would get offended by a verbal or physical slight, slurred voices would rise, pushing would turn to punching, and the room would come alive — arms and legs flailing to connect with something human — once again proving the common village saying that “the party doesn’t really get good until a fight breaks out.”

Sam longed for change; he longed for peace, security, and safety. He was tired of being afraid to go to bed every night, lying with his head under the blankets, tense and listening; ready to fight off drunk, clumsy hands seeking their target; feeling the angry blows as he fought to fend off abuse. But not tonight! Sam grabbed his coat and, pushing his way through the heaving mass of bodies, headed out the door.

The winter air stung his cheeks as he pulled the hood of his coat over his head and walked down the deserted dirt road. Where to go? he pondered. No point going to the neighbors. Things were worse at their house.

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