I am embarrassed to admit that I did not look forward to Christmas day. It is unbelievable but true, but streams of people keep coming to and from the house . I live in a small town and am the only remnant of my ancestry. So, I inherit the relatives of my father, mother, uncles, and cousins who have passed away or who are not longer in the country. Guests, relatives, and godchildren come in hordes representing several generations. There are of course the “barangay tanods”, traffic enforcers, street sweepers, garbage collectors, and carolers. Times had been hard, and a Christmas gift means so much.
Normally, I wished they would leave after the usual Christmas greetings. But more often than not, they chose to linger to share stories about their children and ask me questions about the latest in politics. They certainly welcomed sandwiches, and native delicacies. Later in the day, the good Lord converts the sinner in me and lets me realize that it is more blessed to give. I am transformed from a Scrooge to a happy giver and begin to enjoy the presence of my uninvited guests.
So this Christmas, I may be spared from the hustle and bustle from so many “relatives” in the house. Even the nearest of my kin say that they may not be coming for fear that they may catch the virus from other well-wishers. They are also thinking of my welfare as they may unknowingly pass on the virus to me. And then, I literally get sad. How do I spend Christmas by myself?
And so I start to notice people I have failed to notice and appreciate every day. These are the receptionists, the guards, the cleaning ladies, messengers, gardeners, and laborers in the building where I live. I begin to think of the motorcycle drivers who take a big risk in delivering packages. There are the food attendants in the food court who have stories of their own. There are the drivers who ask for “ayuda” (financial assistance) on the street. They would appreciate a Christmas present and would be surprised when I take some time to ask how their families are.
I have become more generous and place a little less value on the number of bills in my wallet. I do not have a great liquidity preference, but it has lessened even more. I now have a greater understanding of what it means to share our blessings.
Christmas 2020 has challenged us to be more creative. While we miss our traditional Christmas fellowship, we are invited to think beyond the box to make our zoom parties colorful, exciting and personal. Last Friday, I was so happy to see our mentors, partners and friends dress up to be their own W. Work from Home was our theme. So many Ws came to being—weather girl, wonder woman, wolverine, wreath from home, washing machine, wanted for felony, wizard, WHO doctor, watch, “walastik”, wired from home, and 50 others. We dressed up using whatever we had in the house—old wreaths, worn out hats, and faded but colorful shirts. We realized that so much can be done with simplicity and ingenuity. We saw no need for party clothes and new pairs of shoes. And then, we had to cook up games that kindled our strong desire to compete and win. I had fun watching Luigi competing in the most mundane game—the Treasure hunt. And then we sang Christmas carols. We were all out of tune and not singing in unison. But we were grateful that pandemic or no pandemic, we have remained friends and colleagues and that we are all healthy and alive.
This Christmas, we have learned to value friendship, silence, simplicity, and the many others who had been in the periphery of our lives. We learn the true spirit of Christmas which is the very deep love of God for us, and that in turn, we are called upon to share This love with others. Some materialism may be there, but we begin to experience weaning ourselves away from worldly pleasures that are fleeting. We fix our gaze on the Child, the Manger, Hope and Love that He brings.