Lights between houses in Baltimore neighborhood show connection in pandemic holidays In 2020, a Baltimore man strung holiday lights across the street to remind his neighbor of the connection they shared despite pandemic isolation. Soon, others hopped on their rooftops to do the same.

Lights between houses in Baltimore neighborhood show connection in pandemic holidays

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


One night last November in a neighborhood just outside Baltimore, Kim Morton was watching a movie with her daughter when she got a text message from her neighbor, Matt Riggs. He told her to look outside. Morton saw a string of twinkling holiday lights connecting her home to Riggs' house directly across the street. Riggs said it was a reminder of the connection that the two of them shared despite how isolated she might have felt through the pandemic. Pretty soon, other neighbors hopped onto their rooftops to hang up lights, too, connecting their house to other houses.

Well, this year, the neighbors of Rodgers Forge got together again to light up their neighborhood together. And joining me now is the person who started this tradition, Matt Riggs. Welcome.

MATT RIGGS: Thank you.

CHANG: So can you just take me back to that November night last year, Matt? Like, I want to just know what was going through your mind when you decided to put up that first string of lights between your home and Kim Morton's home.

RIGGS: Sure. She was rather upset about some things going on just kind of personally. It was a difficult time for her. It was a difficult time for me - work stresses, home stresses. And so my wife and I wanted to connect with Kim and her husband, Will. And so I'd finished lighting our house, and then I wanted to see if I could extend the lights across the street from my tree to the Mortons' tree. And my wife Kerry made some cookies and took them over. And her response was absolutely overwhelming.

CHANG: How did she react when she looked outside her window?

RIGGS: She was thrilled and she - it was very gratifying to her to know that she's seen and I understand what she's going through. We all do.

CHANG: At the time, did you even expect other neighbors to join in?

RIGGS: Nope (laughter). No, not at all.

CHANG: (Laughter) Wait, so how exactly did it happen?

RIGGS: It's beautiful. It was such a surprise. It all grew organically. Last year, we - you know, we were happy just to do our block. But then the next block down, the neighbors there wanted to do it as well. So they started doing it. And then other streets started doing it. We just kind of all wanted it and needed it, I guess. So this year, we wanted to take it a step further and make it a little more coordinated.

CHANG: Mmm hmm.

RIGGS: So our friends climbed up on rooftops and drilled into the brick to mount anchors, and we made an event of it, a party. We - it was BYO and then they were listening to Christmas music and climbing ladders and...

CHANG: (Laughter) Oh, I love it. You made a whole party out of it.

RIGGS: Yeah.

CHANG: Well, I'm curious. Were you already a tightknit neighborhood? Or did these lights kind of help bring people together and literally, in some cases, introduce neighbors to each other for the first time?

RIGGS: As close as we have been for a decade-and-a-half plus, this did bring us even closer and really fortified our friendship. Kim Morton will tell you that her daughter coined the phrase we are like family and neighbors and friends. We're fenamily (ph).

CHANG: (Laughter) I love that - All in one. So, Matt, do you think this is a tradition that you expect and want to continue, even beyond the pandemic?

RIGGS: I do expect it will - that we'll keep on doing it. I think it's a wonderful representation of the connection that we feel to one another. And it literally brings light to kind of a dark time.

CHANG: Well, happy holidays.

RIGGS: Thank you very much. Same to you.

CHANG: That is Matt Riggs. He's a longtime resident of the Rodgers Forge community outside of Baltimore, where he began the tradition of hanging up holiday lights, connecting homes in his neighborhood. So great to talk to you.

RIGGS: Thank you. Same to you.


Copyright © 2021 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.