LAST Christmas a young person with Saint Lucia connections found a temporary job at a New York hospital. As the festive season neared she was asked to participate in her department’s Christmas ritual, randomly selecting a wish list sent by underprivileged city children. The young worker chose three separate wish lists, instead of one, as directed. Of the three, one asked for a cell phone, one a train set and the third, a girl, asked for a book. They were three and four-years. Each got what they asked for but the third child was sent five age-appropriate books, four more than she asked.
There are no hard and fast rules by which to measure what the children felt after they had sent off their wish list, or when they received their presents. We may however surmise that each little heart was filled with joy upon receipt of their Christmas wish. It may well have been their greatest gift.
That young employee’s action makes us think more deeply about the art of giving. Giving recalls at least two beneficiaries; the recipient and the donor. Who benefits more is both interesting and intriguing. The recipient is happy because a need has been fulfilled and the donor is happy because he has pleased. These two aspects to giving go further. The material thing that is given loses its value over time and is soon gone. The spirit of the donor meanwhile is strengthened and he soon discovers that he needs (and desires) less and less of material comforts of life. This is not religious fiction; people who habitually give learn to make do with less and are happier and less stressful.
These are the lessons from the young worker in New York. She voluntarily went beyond what her department had asked of her, and made three children happy.
There are young people in Saint Lucia and the Caribbean who would do the same in the identical situation.
At Christmas the media is filled with efforts by corporate citizens bringing cheer to needy children and their families. Increasingly, foreign companies (and countries too), help children and parents enjoy this time of year.
In the rush to cash-in on gift-giving one ought to guard against an emerging pattern that looks more and more as pay back for favours received. For example, when a person or a company is forgiven thousands of dollars in back taxes or NIC payments, turns and offers a Member of Parliament hundreds of hams and other goodies at Christmas, is this a quid-pro-quo or pay back?. Are such ‘gifts’ to be used for a political purpose and is this another form of corruption?
Regardless of the answer the point remains that such large donations are hidden in plain view while using the spirit of the gift-giving season to defraud the poor tax payer. One ought therefore not to drop one’s guard at Christmas but instead be on the lookout for those who give with the right and steal more with the grasping left. The saying: Tom drunk but, Tom no fool,’ should guide our every thought at parties and in public spaces more than ever.
The police have warned that criminals lurk everywhere. Many use the gift-giving season to help themselves into homes and businesses exiting with ‘gifts’ and leaving pain and sorrow behind without as much as a ‘Thank You’ note. Nothing of value is spared.
Such people force the rest of us to re-think the real meaning of Christmas and what needs to be inculcated in the population. Putting the central message of ‘Christ-made-manifest’ aside for the moment, may I suggest that the best gift at Christmas is that which we give to ourselves? It is taking control of our lives, individually and collectively, and rejecting greed and gluttony while giving willingly, expecting nothing in return.
Needless hiding behind the celebrations and denying that the duty one owes is the exercise of self-control at all times. This is more critical for adults than it is for children. To guard against excesses is the best example to set children. Decide how much you will eat and drink and do not pig-out because children learn what you do; not what you say.
This is not intended as an unhappy kill-joy Christmas agenda. Far from it! What is intended is for the obese, the alcoholic, and those generally out of control, to allow Prudence to direct them; Temperance to chasten them; Fortitude to support them; and Justice to guide them. Maintain discipline and hold on to tried and tested virtues while taking time to praise your God however you perceive Him. These are the greatest gifts people can give to themselves and to their children this Christmas.
Also, learn to look differently and more kindly at people you do not know and do not like? People can change! Change is the only constant in life. Take a moment to be alone and to dig deeper into your inner self perchance to find the source of fortitude and strength which should help cope with inevitable change in the New Year. Better to prepare and anticipate change than to pretend that it’s not possible.
Read a book over the holidays and try to write the story of your life truthfully. You may be surprised how unique you are. I have said that I write for my own pleasure but I also readily admit that I also write to educate and enlighten. Besides, I need to engage with kindred spirits. That’s the greatest gift no matter the season or the circumstances. Have a blessed Christmas everybody and may the New Year bring the benefits of rewarding change that so many look forward to.