We are all children at Christmas. We, as adults, claim it’s better to give than receive. While that is true, there is also a little piece inside of us that says I hope that I receive, too. And not just receive, but receive something with meaning, a gift with some thought behind it. Something that tells me that the giver knows me, listens to me and understands at least a modicum of my life.
Po Chu-i (u has two dots over it) the ninth century poet wrote about life and its stages, reminding us of the child in all of us, the one that really never leaves because it’s pushed deep inside us to allow the adult plenty of room to get serious. That little inkling is the child that secretly wishes for attention, for love and encouragement through understanding. Is there a time when the child in us reemerges? Po Chu-i said so.
“I have put behind me Love and Greed. I have done with Profit and Fame. I am still short of illness and decay and far from decrepit age. Strength of limb I still possess to see the rivers and hills. Still my heart has spirit enough to listen to flutes and strings. At leisure I open new wine and taste several cups; drunken I recall old poems and sing a whole volume.”
As we age, this creed could be held by more than some as proof that we can at some point move into a second childhood. In middle age our childhood is gone and we fool ourselves into thinking we’re smart and dignified when all we really want is to relax. Our desire to allow the child to reemerge comes later in life when we finally realize there is no reason to hold on to the foolishness of adulthood.
For me, the job I do is little boy work. What I do couldn’t be easier, at least at times. I await Christmas with the same anticipation I did as a child. I want to see the faces of my kids and their kids. That is a huge gift for me, as is the relaxation that comes with the holiday. My inner child surfaces more now than ever, and I encourage it out whenever possible. It wants acknowledgement and affirmation. Christmas is a time when my family surrounds me and I get that affirmation. My kids surround me and their spirit energizes me.
Mushy? Sure, but isn’t it the time of year when we express our love through gifts and celebrate love through food and drink? Whether it’s love for God through one religion or another or love of our family, friends and humanity, it’s a time when we satisfy ourselves by loving others.
That too is the gift we receive and how better to feel the love of others than by receiving. Sounds selfish, but I don’t think it is. Even in third world countries where there isn’t much to give, people sacrifice something in their lives to brighten another’s. And the person on the receiving end feels the grace offered by the person who offers something, a gift.
I was raised Catholic, and I remember how in elementary school we would attend mass every day. We would march two by two, holding hands in the lower grades, and hear a sermon and receive communion. We really didn’t understand what was really going on there and were not paying much attention. But during the Christmas season it was special, this is before Vatican II when services were still in Latin and somewhat mysterious. During most of the year the masses were dim and lacking, but the songs - even sung in Latin - the smells, candles brightly removing the shadows presented something glorious and uplifting.
Gloria in excelsis deo
Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.
Glory to God in the highest
And on earth peace to people of good will
These are a couple of lines that mean something to everyone, not just those who attend church or wear their beliefs on their sleeve (crucifix soaring from the back of a pickup truck). Goodwill, a time to give, whether to those who are close to you or those who are far away, those who believe in dogma, those who want to help another person or those who feel good giving within their own family.
There’s something about giving and receiving that makes us all feel good. Christmas to me includes everyone whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Agnostic, no mater how they celebrate their own particular miracles.
Isn’t it really a gift to ourselves when we give to those less fortunate on the holiday or at any other time? The satisfaction we feel when we help someone we don’t know or show our love to those close to us.
So on Christmas morning, or on whatever day you open gifts from others, ripping the brightly color wrapping, admit it, doesn’t it feel good to receive?