Ayoung person with Saint Lucian connections landed a temporary job at a New York hospital. As the festive season approached, she was asked to participate in her department’s ritual of randomly selecting a wish list submitted by underprivileged children. The young worker selected three separate wish lists, instead of the one as directed. One child asked for a cell phone, another for a train set and the third, a girl, asked for a book. The kids were three and four years old. Each received their wish but the little girl was given four age-appropriate books—three more than requested.
There are no hard and fast rules by which to measure how the children felt after they had sent off their wish list, or when they received their gifts. We may nevertheless imagine how each little heart was filled with joy upon the receipt of their Christmas wish. 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 conjectural; the donor is happy because she has fulfilled a need and considers what she did a blessing. The recipient is also happy that their wish was delivered, albeit by a total stranger.
These two aspects to giving go further: the material thing that is given often loses its value over time, and may be forgotten. But the happiness the three young New Yorkers felt cannot easily be forgotten. Chances are they will in due course look forward to making another feel as they had felt upon receiving their surprise Christmas gifts. Meanwhile, the donor’s spirit is strengthened; she feels less need for material things as she reflects on the three children. Her personal experiences will teach her that people who habitually give, learn to do with less, and are often happier than those who are grasping and selfish.
The lesson from that young worker in New York is a timely reminder that it is more blessed to give than to receive. That young worker went beyond what her department had asked of her and made three little children happy. I feel certain that there are young people in Saint Lucia who would do the same in similar circumstances.
At Christmas the media is filled with the efforts of corporate citizens bringing cheer to customers 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 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 payback?. Are such ‘gifts’ to be used for a political purpose and is this another form of corruption; not a genuine Christmas gift?
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 taxpayers. One ought therefore not to drop his or her guard at Christmas, but instead, be on the lookout for those who give with the right hand and take more with the grasping left. The saying ‘Tom drunk but Tom no fool’ should guide our every thought, particularly at this time of year.
The police have warned that criminals lurk everywhere. Many using the gift-giving season to help themselves into homes and business places while exiting with ‘gifts’ and leaving pain and suffering behind them. Nothing of value is spared. What message can the police or government send? Shall they beg criminals to give the people a break to enjoy Christmas, as a former prime minister did?
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’ in its proper perspective, may I suggest that the best gift at Christmas is taking control of our lives, rejecting greed and gluttony, while giving what we can, expecting nothing in return, remembering the real reason for the season.
To give what we can and to guard against excesses is the best example we can set our children and the youth. 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. This Christmas, these are the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves, our families and to our friends and country.
We ought also to learn to look more kindly at people we do not know, and may not like, for whatever reason. People can change! Change is the only constant in life. Take a moment to be alone and to find fortitude and strength to help cope with inevitable challenges in the New Year. Better to prepare and anticipate change than to pretend that it will not show up.
Read a book over the holidays. Try to write or speak kind words to or about someone you may have hurt in the past. You may be surprised how this gesture can change your life and that of another. Read and rediscover the wonderful power of the imagination and how the printed word can change your perception. The universal reach of the human imagination may still be the greatest gift we discover, in a book.
Have a blessed Christmas dear reader, and may the New Year bring the benefits of rewarding change wherever you may be, and whatever happiness you seek.