Many of us lose focus of the true spirit of Christmas in the frenzied holiday season. Today, we remind you of the importance of giving back. Look out for another post next week!
Christmas is a time of ebullience: The season of sorrel and fruit cake; of gift-giving, merry making, friends and family. Indeed, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Right? Wrong! For many, Christmas is quite the opposite.
You see, ‘tis the season when many are reminded just how lonely they are; or just how little they have; or of the loved ones they no longer have around to enjoy the season with. But we seldom see them because of the distraction of the (commercialised) festivities. It is even worse if those persons reside at the fringes of society. I am referring to the people who live on the streets.
I grew up in an era when, at Christmas, there would be carolling throughout the community and persons will go from house to house to bring the holiday cheer. We would even stop by the homes of people we did not even know and be sure to receive a delectable offering of sorrel and fruit cake as we carolled from door-to-door. My grandmother always said Christmas was about giving, that just as God GAVE His son on that first Christmas Day, we, too, must give because, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” And she was right.
Christmas has never been the same for me since I lost my father, 14 years ago. Since then, every Christmas has been the season that I’d be most depressed. Friends were either returning to the countryside or travelling to “foreign” to share the season with relatives and I was left to my lonesome self. I reckoned that there are many more persons like me and asked myself what could I do with the time instead of throwing a pity party. Nobody but me attended anyway. And that was the birth of my new tradition of spending Christmas with some people who are homeless, in Kingston. I refused to call them homeless because that nomenclature seems too attributive. They are people first and their social (and physical) location should not detract from the fact of their humanity.
This journey began three years ago when I decided to take food and clothing to people who live on the streets. I shared the idea with some friends who helped me collect clothing and made financial contributions so that I could give back and make Christmas a happy time for some, often forgotten and for whom Christmas may not be a happy time. I have not been able to feed them ham and turkey and macaroni and cheese, but they have always been grateful for the good old patty and coco bread with a drink. Hopefully, this year, I will be able to afford to add a little slice of fruit cake to the menu. And I also try to engage. The conversations are not always coherent and I do not always understand, but I always leave with a laugh. My heart always smiles and I always leave forgetting my own misery. I get so much more than I give from this engagement. I learn so much from their stories; from their evident resilience; from their gratefulness in the midst of so much lack (as measured by those of us who are privileged). What they give me back might be intangible, but they give me back so much more in terms of life lessons than I could ever give to them. My grandmother was right. It is, indeed, more blessed to give than it is to receive.
I am just grateful to my friends, Bertram Gayle, Avril Scarlett and Peta-Gaye Campbell, especially, who have all given clothes (sometimes from their own current closet) and use their homes as a drop-off centres for their friends who donate clothes. I could not do it without them. In a sense, giving back has been a most wonderful Christmas gift.
At the end of the day, we are all connected. Hopefully, eventually, we take the time out to SEE those who are often ‘invisiblized’ through our privileged lenses and we take the time out to give to them this Christmas. Is that not Christmas is about anyway? UBUNTU!
Damien Marcus Williams is an educator, motivational speaker, consultant, philanthropist, author (book in progress) and a social commentator through his award-winning blog (Jamaica Blog Awards – Best Lifestyle Blog) http://dmarcuswiliams.blogspot.com . He gives daily motivation via his facebook page: www.facebook.com/damienmarcuswilliams.