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Love, not Stuff!
By: James Claire
Aging is a funny concept, you become smarter and want to stamp your own mark on the world but, at times, you are pulled backward to learn from the past.

The past s where mistakes have been made, fixed and usually forgotten. As I age I try to learn from the past so as not to repeat it.

Those reading this column live in a country where the meaning of Christmas is irrelevant due to the beliefs of those to whom this country belongs. However, the message to all this festive season, planet wide, should be that December 25th should be a time of ‘Love, not stuff.’

In the Western world, with its myriad of religious beliefs, Christmas has become more a time of gifts than of family, love and togetherness. In the Middle East, those of us who celebrate it, add it to a long list of days that we can have a boozy brunch, few of us have a Christmas tree in our villa and even fewer are celebrating with family by our side. So, what are we celebrating other than a day off?

How many gifts can one truly need through life? Surely we can buy what ever we want for ourselves with our tax-free salaries. So, what do you buy or give the expat who has everything? Perhaps we could give them a message from the past!

In 1967 Martin Luther King JR stated on CBC radio at Christmas, “This Christmas season finds us a rather bewildered human race. We have neither peace within nor peace without. Our world is sick with war; everywhere we turn we see its ominous possibilities. And yet, the Christmas hope for peace and good will toward all men can no longer be dismissed as a kind of pious dream of some utopian. If we don’t have good will toward men in this world, we will destroy ourselves.“

With wars, skirmishes and insurgencies in Croatia, Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, and tensions in the China Sea to North and South Korea, have we learnt anything in the near 40 decades of Christmases since King spoke those ominous words?

So, here’s the idea for Christmas. I have been working with a hotel group recently and they have a programme whereby anyone can bestow a guest with an act of generosity based upon whatever event they see or hear.

If a guest is running late, the concierge can offer the company car rather than waiting for a taxi; if the guest is seen to have spilled something on themselves, a waiter can offer free laundry service and so on. They are called ‘random acts of kindness’ and they have made a huge impact on guest satisfaction overall.

Instead of buying gifts for people who aren’t really friends and instead of spending BD10 on something ridiculous for a Secret Santa gift that the receiver will never use, why not perform a random act of kindness? Pool office resources and change the lives of people who are needy. Buy a wheelchair for the disabled, buy dinner for the homeless, pay for the medication for a patient or pay for a flight for orphans who have never travelled.

Violence is easy and, for the most part, it is caused by the unhappiness of others or the disparity of their lives to ours. Imagine if we removed that imbalance and made the less fortunate lead a happier, balanced life. Christmas is about love, not stuff, and we should show that love to all, everywhere.

Martin Luther King Jr. also stated, ”I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

For the most part we have conquered racism. Sadly though, we are no closer to solving the issues that make us fight with one another.

However, if violence only leads to more violence, then perhaps we will one day see that kindness inspires kindness. Instead of asking a fictitious character in a red suit for a gift this year, how about performing a ‘random act of kindness’ and making peace, happiness and contentment the only feelings felt throughout the world?

Season’s greetings to you all.