In the lobby of our office stands the most beautiful Christmas tree.
It is majestic, tall, towering. The green leaves are lost in the reds and golds and in the crystals and the globes and red-golden ribbons and a hundreds, maybe thousands, of twinkling lights. I could almost feel Christmas-y at the sight of this tree, my ears peaking at the sound of the soft strains of – aaahh, Christmas music. At the crown are a thousand shimmering cascades of red stars beckoning all to come and see.
A seemingly farcical treat to this Christmas that promises to be different from all the rest.
A different Christmas.
Because this year has been a year of disasters. Of typhoons smashing islands in the Pacific, floods raging to cities that never knew floods, dry season turning to wet in the blink of an eye, forest fires, colder winters, warmer summers, ice caps turning to avalanches, the impending drama of 2012 and the end of the world.
There is a recession and the world is reeling from it. Mood: weary. Shoppers are unsure for the first time of what to do with their Christmas dollars (or if they even have enough to get by). Sales are ignored, mall foot traffic is a thing of the past. Not even a cajoling from the government to “Buy! Buy! Buy!” can get the general public going. Who can blame them? They do not know how long the uncertainty will last – the weakness of the dollar, the continuous rise of the price of oil, the seemingly unending wars, the bull suddenly turning into the bear and back, job (in)security, the Obama magic failing and everything is not back to where it should be.
Yes. A different Christmas. But – it has all the potential to be a very meaningful one.
Because when you strip materiality out of Christmas, what do you have left?
When my husband and I were but poor pilgrims on the road to our first Christmas together (with child), I asked (begged) him to do caricatures of our families and friends. We framed these caricatures and shyly gave them, hoping that the recipients will not see through our frugality. They did not and they loved the gift. Amazing.
I have never spent a Christmas with the less fortunate. Have you?
But I had a friend who made it her personal mission to spend Christmas with them, with children with disabilities in particular. I saw the pictures and could tell the children had a very tough life – nurses in tow, tubes attached to their bodies, or bodies strapped to wheelchairs. But as I turned the pages, when they were partaking of a simple meal of fried chicken and rice, treated to a magic show, an acrobat show, and games, lots of games, their eyes radiated joy as their naked hope and wish – which my friend was only to eager to fulfill – was fulfilled. To be a child, to be normal. Made possible by the passion and the advocacy of one human being.
Like what Kari, a reader of BloggingAwayDebt.com said: Given the choice between buying some dumb tchotchke at the mall vs. helping someone have a hot meal or a warm coat, it’s no contest.
She bids me goodbye as I still cling to the night’s dreams. I come home and she is asleep. “Mom, we do have Saturdays,” she assures me. But I am not assured. Sometimes, I ask, what is the point of all this if not her.
This Christmas, more than ever, I look for a time for togetherness, a time when I can slip off my worldly cares and be mother, be wife, be with people I live with and live for, the ones who count in the end.
I hope, too, that during this – what promises to be – a simple but extraordinary Christmas, we will all remember the reason for the season.
A meaningful Christmas to all.
Article by Issa. Art by D. Copyright 2009.
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