Neighbors help disabled man continue Christmas lights tradition

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - There are often stories that serve as examples of the Christmas spirit and how it seems to bring out the best in people during the holidays, which is certainly the case in a Baton Rouge neighborhood that has rallied behind a man and his family.

The home of Jim and Pat Waites in the Westminster-Pine Park subdivision is a place where tragedy has been overcome by light. Powerful bulbs illuminate their yard for young and old to enjoy every night during the holiday season. However, it all came to a crashing halt a year ago when Jim was injured taking down the lights and confined to a wheelchair.

But thanks to the ultra-positive mindset from the man they call Mr. Christmas and the never-ending support of his family and neighbors, the tradition continues. The extension cords are plugged in and the lights still shine bright on Park Ridge Drive just like they have during the holidays for years.

"It's been very overwhelming to be honest," Jim Waites said.

He takes time to survey the display in his front yard and the smile is back on his face, now that he can once again share his passion with others.

"It makes you feel good that God is letting you do something that pleases other people," he added.

With help from one of his sons and a co-worker, Jim's lights are back where they belong for all to enjoy, but with a new addition. A basket is in place to collect the countless well wishes and prayers that are received daily from neighbors and friends. Pat Waites, Jim's caregiver and wife of 54 years, read just a few of those Wednesday night.

"Dear Pop, hope you feel better soon," she read from one note.

"Dear Mr. Jim, we all hope you get better soon. We've all been praying for you," she read from a card.

"He never thought something so simple as a strand of lights could make people happy," Pat 'Ditty' Waites said.

According to Pat, it's an outpouring of support that has helped more than most will ever know.

"I've said I feel like I go to sleep and I'm so tired I don't have time to pray and everybody responds, 'Pat, it's because there are so many prayers out there for you," she explained.

But for neighbors like Karen Gautreau, it's Jim who continues to help others. She added it's his positive outlook on life, despite the accident, that has inspired so many.

"Look at Jim, look at his courage, look at his hope, look at what he gives and people are like that all over the neighborhood," Gautreau said.

"You don't realize how many hearts you touch by the things you do and when something like this happens, you find it out more," Jim stated.

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