Christmas is the season of giving, but for many, it has become the season for getting! With the increased commercialisation of Christmas, it’s almost impossible to think of the holidays without a huge evergreen tree (or the plastic equivalent), with numerous gifts underneath, a table full of food and a house full of family. Although this may sound like an American’s view of the season, globalisation has ensured that certain things are viewed the same pretty much all over the world.
While steaming hot chocolate tea and an ackee and saltfish breakfast characterise some of our Jamaican Christmas memories, by and large, when we think of Christmas, we think of the image presented to us on cable TV. Despite the togetherness that Christmas brings, we have been a little selfish. Admit it. Looking back at the past few Christmases, you could have been kinder, you could have been more pleasant, contributed to a charity, or fed the less fortunate. You could’ve done something differently.
So, while you rush to get to the malls before they close, or search for a parking space at the supermarket, or wait until your favourite store opens, think. Think about someone you could give something to this year, beyond your family perhaps. Is there anything you can part with so that someone else can have a brighter Christmas? Sometimes we get so lost in our own joys at Christmas time that we forget those without families, those who are homeless, those who will be spending Christmas and the New Year in the hospital.
A few years ago my family stopped exchanging Christmas gifts. At first I was shocked, because Christmas means presents! But then I realised the only gift I really needed was the time I spent with my family, who are all over the place throughout the year. It may sound Utopian, but not getting gifts on Christmas made me reflect. So I started giving back.
I have joined with a number of organizations over the years to give clothing, toys, cleaning supplies and anything else we can think of to the Best Care Lodge. I went there in high school and, since then, I have kind of adopted them in my heart. A year doesn’t pass without at least one donation. However, in recent times, they have been getting a lot of recognition and quite a few fundraisers have been held in their honour, while other homes are being forgotten. Open your directory (or the Jamaica Yellow Pages app for the tech savvy among us) and call any children’s home. You may be surprised at how many homes are in need.
However, my most memorable volunteer moment was reading to the patients in the children’s ward at the University Hospital. Words cannot describe that experience, which is perhaps one of the best experiences of my life. Gather a group of friends, buy some gifts – books, toys, whatever it may be – and call the hospital (to get approval, of course) and visit the children.
Giving back doesn’t have to be anything grand. If you have a few items of clothing you haven’t worn in a while (or at all) and they are still in good condition, then the Salvation Army could put it to good use. If we go back to the traditional meaning of Christmas, we won’t find it so difficult to give back. It is a celebration, a celebration of life and the giving of gifts. These are not always the shiny wrapped items you see in the front of stores or the electronics you can get on hire purchase. It’s the gift of time, the gift of laughter, the gift of a smile, the gift of a kind word.
Nicolette Jones lives by the philosophy that if you have enough of something, it wouldn’t hurt to give some away. Her friends call her ‘the perpetual volunteer.’ Other than that, she is a fun-loving insomniac who blogs at iamnicolette.blogspot.com and she started whereinja.wordpress.com recently