Christmas gifts from the heart

STOP FOR A moment this Christmas Eve and think about the meaning of Christmas; then let the Christmas spirit sustain you through tomorrow and propel you through the new year. Remember, Christmas is about giving from the heart. It is not an obligation.

The Christmas story of Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem offers so many lessons that sustain us in life. It is a celebration of birth and new beginnings; the knowledge that we can deal with hardships and discomfort; the promise of a better future and the sacrifices we are called upon to make if we truly want to create a meaningful life. Together, wrapped up in a neat bow, Christmas offers the gift of hope that should be remembered and celebrated throughout the year.

There are so many ways to give in a meaningful way, today, tomorrow and into next year. Let me list some of those ways for you.

1. Begin your act of meaningful giving by honouring or creating new traditions with your family. When I was growing up, my dad bought us ice skates one Christmas, and then created a tradition where we went ice skating every Christmas. This was a way to connect with nature and enjoy a meaningful gift for years to come.

Traditions are about more than ripping away colourful paper from endless gifts. Find a meaningful gift or create an activity— like reading — to create Christmas memories.

2. Encourage creativity in gift-giving that captures the spirit of Christmas. I encourage my children to find ways they could give to others and to me without having to buy a gift. They made their own Christmas cards and did drawings. For me, they made vouchers for chores like cleaning up their rooms without me reminding them or cleaning the car. This makes gift-giving personal at an age-appropriate level. When my children got older, they did extra chores to earn money to buy gifts.

3. Give the gift of hope that creates lasting memories for you and the recipient. When I decided to support a school library one Christmas, my daughter, Ijanaya, asked all her friends to donate money towards that venture rather than buy gifts for her.

During the Christmas season, she would often buy meals for people who were begging on the street.

One Christmas, I bought movie ticket vouchers for food and a movie to give to a gas station attendant who always liked to talk to me about movies. Give the unexpected gift this Christmas to someone in need.

4. Find ways to connect people and services. One Christmas season when I worked at the Trinidad Express in my early years as a journalist, editor-in-chief Owen Baptiste gave me an assignment to go out and find people in need and then find ways to facilitate those needs. I spent two months on this project, and made many dreams come true.

What I remember the most from that Christmas was finding six students in the School for the Deaf in Cascade who could have some hearing if they only had hearing aids. TSTT sponsored those hearing aids for me.

Make lasting memories this Christmas by organising such projects in your school or business. It will bring everyone together in unimaginable ways.

5. Volunteer. Discover the joys of volunteering. Start a book club in a school. Organise homework supervision in your neighbourhood. Find meaningful ways to give services to your community, and discover the meaning of giving on a whole new level. This is how I started teaching at YTC.

6. Support non-government organisations (NGO)s. There are many NGOs in this country doing amazing work. Look at the work Living Water, ALTA and Children’s Ark are doing.

Check United Way for a long list of NGOs it supports. NGOs always need money so if you think you are too busy to offer time, donate money for a worthy project.

7. Invest in this nation’s education. If you want to put a dent in crime and give your children a better future, then invest in education.

Find ways to facilitate school projects from painting classrooms, developing school libraries, volunteering with reading programmes and any other needs schools have.

Organise fund-raising ventures.

At home, read to your children so they can develop the academic skills they need and the empathy skills they need to be more giving people.

Give from the heart, and give in a way that creates lasting memories and lasting benefits.

Merry Christmas, dear readers.


"Christmas gifts from the heart"

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