This Christmas the following piece, which was written some three years ago in another newspaper captioned ‘The Greatest Gift’, is republished in the STAR. The story is the same but the title has been tweaked to distinguish between which belongs to what newspaper.
Last Christmas a young person with Saint Lucia connections found a temporary job at a New York City hospital. As the festive season neared she was asked to participate in her department’s Christmas ritual by randomly selecting a wish list sent by underprivileged city children. The young worker chose three separate wish lists instead of the one, as directed. Of the three, one asked for a cell phone, another asked for a train set and the third, a girl, asked for a book. They were three and four years old. Each got what they asked for but the third received five age-appropriate books, four more than she’d asked for.
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. The act of 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 met while the donor is contented because she has brought a smile to a child’s face.
These two aspects to giving go further. The material thing that is given often loses its value over time and may be soon gone. The spirit of the donor, meanwhile, is strengthened as she soon discovers that she needs less and less of the material comforts of life. This is not religious fiction: people who habitually give, learn to make do with less and are often happier and less stressful.
These are the lessons from the temporary young worker at that New York City hospital. She voluntarily went beyond what her department asked of her and made three children happy. There are young people in Saint Lucia and the Caribbean who would do the same in identical situations.
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 payback for favours received. For example, when a person or a company who 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 quid pro quo or some form of payback? Are such ‘gifts’ to be used for a political purpose, and is this some 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 poor taxpayers. One ought, therefore, to guard against dropping his or her guard at Christmas and be on the lookout for those who give with the right hand and steal with the grasping left. The saying: ‘Tom drunk but Tom no fool’ should guide our every thought at parties and in public spaces as we make merry at Christmas.
The police have warned that criminals lurk everywhere. Many use the gift-giving season to help themselves in homes and businesses, exiting with ‘gifts’ and leaving behind pain and sorrow without as much as a ‘Thank You’ note. Nothing of value is spared by these unscrupulous bandits.
Such criminals 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 perhaps the best gift this Christmas is that which we give to ourselves? It is taking control of our lives, individually and collectively, and rejecting greed and gluttony while sharing and giving willingly, expecting nothing in return.
It’s pointless hiding behind Christmas celebrations. It doesn’t make sense denying that one has a duty to control oneself at all times. To guard against excesses is the best example to set children. Decide how much you will eat and drink. 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 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. These people can change – so can you! 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 any unpredictable changes in the New Year.
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 write for my own pleasure but I also try to educate and enlighten those in need. That’s a great gift regardless of the season or the circumstances. Peace be with you this Christmas and may 2018 bring the positive benefits you and your family pray for.