Christmas, if we are to judge by our music to shop to, is upon us. It seems to get earlier every year. So I suppose it’s time to start thinking about spending money on gifts, choosing presents for people who perhaps don’t need them, picking up reciprocating trinkets for unexpected offerings, pretend we want to get into the spirit of things, and hope the new year will bring a little more prosperity and cheer.
I think I should mention that I have spent every Christmas since 1971 in St Lucia. There are very few St Lucians under the age of 42 who can beat that record – in fact there are none, which means I have been around the place for longer than most St Lucians – possibly!
As the perennial rebirth of the Holy Child draws near, I happened to notice that one of my colleagues – well, we’re not really colleagues; I doubt we have ever spoken to each other – apparently felt that the fact that he was born in St Lucia was of such significance that he had to remind people of this sterling achievement in the byline to a recent article in the STAR.
I believe that we hold our fates in our own two hands. Yes, fate can treat us unkindly now and then, but we always have the chance to rearrange matters if we try hard enough. There are two aspects of life, however, that we can never influence: who our parents are, and where we were born.
I have always been comforted by the thought that, as an immigrant, I was able to choose to live and work in St Lucia; I did not end up here through an accident of birth. And having made that choice, I also accepted the responsibility for whatever would follow. Unfortunately, it is not unheard of for the chicks already in the nest to resent the arrival of interlopers, even the beneficial, well-meaning ones.
Philosophically, it’s a tantalizing topic: Does your accidental landing on a particular spot automatically give you greater rights than any other to that spot even if you do not nurture, develop and improve it? It’s almost biblical, isn’t it? Remember the story of the talents?
A man going on a journey entrusted his property to his servants. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his ability. The one who had received five talents went off right away and put his money to work and gained five more. The one who had two gained two more, but the one who had received one talent went out and hid it. When the master returned, the one who had received the five talents came and brought five more, and the master was pleased. He was also pleased with the second servant. But with the third servant, who had not used his talent, he was angry.
Sometimes, perhaps not often, when using my talents, experience and fortune in a way I believed would help the country, especially school children, I have felt angry resentment radiating from those who refused to add value to the nation through the use of their own natural inheritance. Perhaps they were ashamed of their own impotence but couldn’t admit it, and so turned abusive.
I’m not a religious person, but I know my Bible, and Mark 4 comes to mind. “There went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the wayside, and the birds of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns; the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And others fell on good ground, did yield fruit. He that has ears to hear, let him hear.”
And that sort of sums up my 40 years of trying help change the way education performs in this country. Some ideas have fallen on barren ground; others have been scorched by three, no more than four, people in power; quite a lot have taken root out in the schools – they know who to call when they need help – and some, especially during Kenny’s first term of office, actually bore fruit, before the rot set in.
Being proud of your nation, your community and your team, their efforts and yours, and rejoicing in the successes you and others have helped achieve is praiseworthy, but taking credit for the landing on a particular spot not of your choosing from a place you could not determine is a dubious boast indeed.