Merry Christmas!

Millions of Filipinos are barely hanging on financially because this was a tough year for many of us. Whoever described poverty as an accumulation of missed opportunities nailed the truth. Ours is a resilient, hardworking race. Unfortunately, the society we live in is divided into two worlds- “the haves” and “don’t-haves”. Rarely do these two worlds intersect. Except at Christmas.

Christmas is the season that unifies, harmonizes, and blends life streams into one single giving bloc of humanity. We are kinder at Christmas. We are more giving of ourselves at Christmas. We are more hopeful at Christmas. The inaccessible becomes accessible; the selfish becomes selfless; the sad becomes less sad; and people stingy with smiles, are more prone to curve their lips at the slightest prompting. This is why Christmas is the season that closes the year. Because no matter how horrific the entire year was for some people, love ends it beautifully through Christmas.

I remember growing up thinking that Christmas was always about gift-wrapped boxes and food galore. My work as an OFW advocate has tempered that belief a hundred-fold. Christmas is intrinsically about the celebration of faith and hope in mankind and the Divine Creator. Perhaps, it’s because the number of gifts one expects to receive as he or she grows older is in direct proportion to the number of friends and family still alive. Somehow, age does make for a more mellow understanding of how the world turns. In my prayers, I always say, “I lift everything up to you, Lord.” And I do. That simple line has given me my second wind during the most difficult times of my life. Faith is the perpetual gift of survival, and vice-versa.

Christmas is when the Lord looks at us from way up high with a twinkle in his eye and says, “Make me proud.” He knows that there is no better and more consistent time on earth than Christmas for us to gather together in His name to simply say, “Thank you, Lord.” No other time than now and no other message than that. Those who grumble about a less than joyous Christmas miss the point. This time it’s not about us – but all about Him. The best gift of all is to just being able to acknowledge Him in our lives.

Thus, the challenge is on how we can seek inspiration and aspiration from this golden season of love, peace, and charity. After all, Christmas comes only once a year. Here are some of my suggestions.

To the jobless multitudes out there who have more notices of disconnection than greeting cards in the mail, I say – keep the faith, stick close to family and friends, and do what you can to get the most smiles and laughter out of Christmas.

To the miserable wife, whose family is threatened by a spoiled, anonymous mistress, I say – give the other woman all the reasons to envy you this Christmas, because by doing so, you’ll be giving your man all the reasons to stay and never let go.

To the perpetually tired husband, struggling to keep the same lifestyle that the family has grown used to, I say – spend a full day doing something that makes you and you alone very, very happy because you deserve it as a solid provider all year long.

To children who belong to a broken home, I say – make this Christmas an occasion to make your siblings feel more loved than ever, and always know that whatever faults your parents have do not detract from your individual obligation to be good to yourself and to your siblings.

To the very rich and extremely famous, I say – make this Christmas not about you. Make it about the people who keep your households clean, your cars running, and your office a delight to go to. Humility must be the Christmas wreath on your door; and, generosity must be the song that you hum throughout the season.

To the overseas workers yearning for family and home, I say – transform Christmas into a season of surprises for your family. Mail them individual postcards; create a YouTube video with you singing a Christmas carol; team up with Internet shops that can deliver the most unexpected goodies like lechon on Christmas Day.

And to my readers, who have made Panorama Magazine their loyal Sunday companion, I say – think of all the blessings in your life and multiply that by a thousand – that exactly is what I wish for you this Christmas. Blessings to many to count, smiles by the minute, and a heart bursting with laughter and joy!

Christmas is what we make of it. And what we make of it defines who we truly are. Merry Christmas everyone! (Send comments to toots.ople@yahoo.com. Follow me on Twitter via www.twitter.com/susanople.

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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