The merry lights are out, the commercials flow thick and fast. Yep! ‘Tis the season to be jolly…and have you done your Santa’s list? A cue to be merry and to make merry…but are we?… merry, I mean.
Giving and receiving gifts may have originated from an honest place of good will, from gratitude and reciprocity. Over time, however, this has morphed into a stress inducing monster which rises from its slumber once a year. A monster fed by most, by our desire to be all to all, to do all, to pack 24 hour days with stuff that needs at least 36 hours to be done. We juggle careers, jobs, families, friends, activities, chores and errands like fully trained athletes pumped up with drugs and steroids. In the process, the giving of gifts has somewhat lost its most honourable and generous intention and has been relegated to duty and obligation.
We are human beings, not human doings. When we focus with unbended ambition on doing stuff and having stuff we disconnect from the true essence of who we are. When we don’t stop and savour the moment, the experience, to rush forward to the next ‘fix’ which will surely make us happy, then we lose out. Like flat pebbles skimming the surface of still waters…we go far, achieve much, but we do not experience the depth and beauty of the water, of life. The writing is on the wall, yet we fail to see it: the best things in life are free. Things that give authentic joy, that feed the soul, that enrich our lives. It is the healthy state of our soul that makes us happy, not the state of our bank account or the list of assets in our balance sheet. The last should be a means to an unselfish end, not the end itself.
The true essence of man revolves around virtues and nobleness, about being generous and self-giving. As St Francis put it so well: ‘It is in the giving that we receive’. We have been gifted so much, primarily, as Christians believe, by a generous God who gave His Son to us for our salvation and a chance for the real happy-ever-after. We have been given other gifts, talents and opportunities, some much, some less, but all given for sure. We all have been gifted. The search for the ‘Merry’ in ‘Merry Christmas’ should lead us to unstick our focus on the demanding crowd of Me-Myself-&-I, to steer clear of overindulgence and frantic entertainment, to downsize and reach out – reach out to others. Others. Those who need us and our giftedness, to help them out of their dumps; to make their Christmas merry and to make our Christmas joyous. It is a win-win situation, definitely. Best things in life are free. Giving of yourself may not cost you money, but the return is absolutely priceless.
Many are catching on to this open secret. Are you? I know of generous youths who dedicate their Christmas Day morning to help serve a well prepared lunch to the poor and to the lonely, to those who somehow fell through the net of welfare and well intentions and ended up out in the cold, alone, helpless, hurting and abandoned.
These generous youths disconnect, just for a few hours, from social media to turn their attention to social action. Their joy (and boisterousness) surpasses even the deep gratitude of those being given a hand. As one youth was heard saying:
‘Each Christmas I used to say: Is this it? All the hype for this? Now, after this experience of reaching out to others, I can say: Yes!!!! This is it!! This is the reason for the season.’
Christmastime does, to some degree, draw our attention to the less fortunate. The hype of helping out the standard orphanages and other institutes for the needy is part and parcel of the Christmas frenzy. That is all well and good. We don’t, however, need to help out on such a grand scale. Reaching out can be done on a personal level, in our own little pond, with the people around us. As Saint Mother Teresa once said, we do not need to go to India to help the poor. They are everywhere…maybe even the person sitting right beside you, living what appears to be a normal life, may be struggling with their own poverty. Poverty can take many shapes and forms. Using the eyes of the heart has always served better. Those in the head have impaired vision.
As Charles Dickens’ Tiny Tim so aptly put it: “God bless us every one!” Well, Mr Scrooge wisened up to the Truths of Life. Will we?