A Christmas filled with generosity and gratitude
World soccer mania is now behind us and Christmas beckons. I will say this for the four-year FIFA event: Like the Olympic Games, it represents one of the most unifying world events indulged by human beings.
As with the Olympics, it provides a time for the world to breathe easier and enjoy an event, even if you are not a soccer fan, in which you get caught up in emotions of defeat or triumph as teams battle for supremacy. This time around kudos goes to lesser-known teams that triumphed against the superpowers of soccer, such as Saudi Arabia’s win against Argentina and Morocco’s against Spain. Ultimate kudos are due to the winner, Argentina, as we salute the formidable efforts of runner-up France.
These games are good for the world and that is why, with music, they represent an important ingredient in the human spirit for good. Long may they last amid the din of the morbidity that afflicts the world and the deterioration of the human spirit as we do horrible things that injure our common humanity. Witness Russian President Vladimir Putin’s diabolical war against the Ukrainians.
It is in this spirit of humanity that aspires to highlight the best in all of us that we celebrate the Christmas season. For while we indulge the spirit of the season, which for many represents the free flow of liquor and various forms of secular enjoyment, we are reminded that what the season is really about is greater than the fleeting pleasures that may be derived from it. Here we avoid a Christian imperialism that would impose limitations on those who do not subscribe to the tenets of Christianity. But for those who recognise Christian beliefs, the essence of Christmas, properly understood, is the celebration of the birth of the Christ child, the breaking of the stranglehold of sin over our lives, and the pursuit of that which allows for the liberation of the human spirit as it aspires for the best that human beings are capable of.
The best expression of this aspiration for me is generosity. This goes beyond being kind to those around us. Fundamentally it relates to the sense of gratitude that we owe to others, an appreciation of the contribution of other people to our lives and our response in recognising those contributions and doing our best to ensure that we reciprocate in our small space.
The spirit of generosity is fast disappearing in our interactions with one another. We do not have to go far to see the natural consequences of a disappearing generosity. Because we do not appreciate each other as we should, the tendency is to retreat to our worst instincts and do great harm to others, especially the most vulnerable among us. Without generosity we fail to see the goodness in others, that the other person is a human being wanting the things that we want and assisting him or her to achieve same. We often lament the alienation of our young people from productive society without realising that too many of them do not have a sense of belonging to a cause that can help them to aspire to a greater good. Thus, they join gangs in which they feel comfortable and welcomed. They then prey upon the society and we resort to draconian measures to constrain them.
How many of us spend any time trying to affirm the dignity of a young person who we profess to love? Contrary to what we sometimes think, the vast majority of our young people do not want to tear the society apart. Many are hard-working and just need to get some help, some encouragement, rather than the disparagement that is often meted out to them. They just want to see some open door of opportunity through which they can walk, ostensibly, to a better future. Are we providing them that open door?
I recently encountered a young man who did some work for me. I asked him if he had a bank account. He did not. I drove him to a bank, told him to go inside, speak with someone, and initiate the process of getting an account. He reported to me later that the process had started and he seemed elated that he could have an account. This made him feel exalted. What many of us take for granted, others have to grasp after largely because they are not helped and they do not know how to engage a process to get them on their way.
This young man does good work with his trade as a certified welder and tiler, but without a way of saving he could not account for his earnings. There is any amount of demand on any free or loose cash that a person has. Putting it in a bank account increases self-esteem and gives one something to strive for. He has made the move and I can anticipate good things happening for him in the future.
This was a small gesture by an adult to a young person. If this and similar gestures could be multiplied throughout the country, can you imagine the effect for good that it could have on the minds of our people? You may not be able to persuade those who turn to the gun from doing so, but I believe that the vast majority of our young people yearn for a better path and are prepared to pursue that path to success.
But we need to be more generous as a people. I often listen to the harsh criticisms that are meted out to our prime ministers. Yes, those who bear great power bear great responsibility and they must be kept under constant scrutiny. But do we ever stop to appreciate the enormous amount of work that a prime minister or leader of any country has to do? Most of us will never become a prime minister so we will never know the hard work that being one entails.
Back in the day I was loathe to criticise Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller when many assailed her as a simpleton. I knew then that not only did she occupy an important post, but the weight of the office had to be heavy on her at times. There are things that she would have to attend to, the burden for which no other Jamaican had. Happy Birthday, Sister P.
Contrary to the naysayers, our leaders have to work hard at the office, even if they are not achieving the partisan delights of the crowd. We need to hold them accountable, but we need to step back a little and recognise the often-vacuous nature of our criticisms. After all, the ball game will never look the same from the pavillion as it does to the person on the field.
With generosity comes gratitude. Both are generative of each other. They are like peas in a pod; they always go together in the same sentence. Show me a generous person and I will show you a grateful person. Gratitude and generosity are the twin values that will ensure the survival of our civilisation. They are the balm in a Gilead filled with hate and bitterness. I wish for you a Christmas filled with generosity and gratitude.
Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator, and author of the books Finding Peace in the Midst of Life’s Storm, Your Self-esteem Guide to a Better Life, and Beyond Petulance: Republican Politics and the Future of America. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.