It’s only a few hours until Christmas. Christmas … a word that conjures childhood memories more than any other occasion I celebrate on an annual basis. Not even on my birthday!
I guess I am not unique in that way. Well, Christmas appears to be the most magical time when you’re still a child. Full of hope and with a longing to learn new things about the world, you imagine what it was like when baby Jesus was born and trying to fit Santa and the reindeers in the picture. Tonight, I would be filled with anticipation of what Father Christmas was going to bring me this year… I also secretly wished I could be granted a Christmas miracle and get to walk again (so sad)...
Alas, when we grow up, the charm of Christmas seems to vanish as we discover a world that is quick to judge and many times superficial when making such judgments. Well, this doesn’t refer to anything in particular but it’s a general comment on how I feel things are today. I wish I could, for a few minutes, recapture the childhood innocence we all possessed once. On the other hand, we wouldn’t survive for long in the adult world if we really retained our childhood way of thinking.
However, I believe we have the choice to stop worrying about the material possessions that have become synonymous with this season. Indeed, I must say that we have come to associate Christmas too much with presents when it’s about gifts.
A play with words, I hear you say. Not really... “Presents” are often simply inanimate artifacts that, yes, can be useful and a source of pleasure. On the other hand, a gift can mean many things - of being a friend, of letting go of the past and of giving oneself to a righteous cause. Yes, related to the act of giving is the idea of ‘charity’… a term that has gained notoriety in my dictionary.
Well, charity reminds me of the many times I have felt out of place as people judged I was unlucky, or as they say, ‘less fortunate’. Oftentimes, these negative messages emerge again like a haunting ghost around Christmas – although I admit things have improved as (disabled people locally appear no longer to be paraded as pathetic, dependent and pitiful things. Yet, the modern Christmas, despite the messages of peace and love it expresses, also bombards us with images and messages promoting instant happiness through the purchase of things, presents and such. Ok, it’s still nice to receive a present occasionally but aren't forgetting something?.
This act of giving material goods to solve problems is what charity sseems to mean nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying it’s bad to give some money to charity but, I believe, this is not what charity is all about. Charity is about giving a person who society has rejected and stigmatised, the dignity of being treated as your equal. Admittedly, it’s not easy and I have often been the one acting as the better person. But when I was on the receiving end... thought of as the 'poor', 'less fortunate', 'pitiful' and 'crippled' boy … it didn't feel that good. But is our way of thinking as adults, natural? Can we still hope in the new generations?
Well, all I can say that judging by my experiences with my nephews, children don’t naturally assume they're better than their uncle simply because they can walk and run amok around the house. It's natural that they ask questions about why uncle uses a wheelchair, etc but that's pretty much like using a car for them. Still, I fear they will probably assume that a 'cruel' nature was the source of all my problems when they grow older (though I still hope not!).
As adults, we have the opportunity to go one step further than looking at disabled people as equals. We have the faculty to consider the way society creates problems through its lack of access and the various wrong ideas about who disabled people are. When I started suspecting that society had a part to play in the negative way I sometimes thought of myself, I was about 10 years old – long after I stopped believing in Father Christmas. To cut a long post short, I think that we should go beyond basing our happiness on material objects.
For even if we cannot return to our childhood state, we can try to be less narrow in our judgments and be open to the possibilities life offers. That’s the only way we can renew ourselves for the New Year – forget any resolutions that we plan to make (which for me last less than 5 days).
Enjoy the holidays and I'll be back in 2010!