I NEVER heard of Boxing Day until I moved to Trinidad. The idea of celebrating Christmas with family and then setting aside the next day to pack boxes with gifts for others felt like extending the Christmas holiday into a whole new realm of hope.
Originally, the British holiday was the day when families presented gifts to their servants or people who worked for them. Then the holiday morphed into a day to give gifts to the poor.
In TT, Boxing Day falls into the long list of holidays we mostly celebrate as a day off work, but I’m hoping for a movement to make Boxing Day more meaningful. What if we all used this holiday to spark an annual commitment to give gifts to needy people, organisations or neighbourhood projects?
What if the holiday concentrated on the plight of the less fortunate in this country who get overlooked even at Christmas? What if we used Boxing Day to transform TT into a more caring and more inclusive place?
Holidays are special because they present the opportunity to be both practical and symbolic.
A specially chosen gift on Boxing Day could create a year-long impact and change attitudes in this country. I think of the generous people who contribute to my Wishing for Wings Foundation – not only to buy items like soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes for destitute prison inmates but also to contribute to the foundation’s skill-based programmes including certified barbering classes.
Their generosity on any given day impacts our lives for years to come because it allows inmates – all of whom come from less fortunate backgrounds – to see and feel there are people who care about them. Some inmates have never had that feeling, and it is sad.
Giving is essential all year round, but having a special holiday that recognises the act of identifying and giving to the needy among us could transform this country.
I envision invisible boxes filled with our hopes and dreams for a more peaceful TT. In those boxes, we find important virtues like courage, generosity and peace. Courage means standing up for the less fortunate whose voices are often ignored. Generosity creates the willingness to give. Peace results when we break down those socio-economic barriers that divide us.
I hope for boxes that foster a more creative and relevant education – a learning experience that teaches and demonstrates virtues like diligence, empathy, honesty, self-sufficiency and pride in ourselves and our country. We should insist on an education system that teaches the values we want all citizens to have.
I see boxes that have brand-new donated picture and chapter books for school classrooms and school libraries so that children in all of our schools can develop their imagination and learn about the world beyond their own neighbourhoods. When poor children have books to read, they can dream of a better life and grow up to be happy, productive citizens who envision a world beyond their impoverished neighbourhoods.
Use your imagination and create boxes brimming with hope and tangible support for important causes like literacy, the environment, athletes, sports programmes, the arts and community development.
Any of our dreams and aspirations can be packed into those boxes, some of which need to be tossed away. We need boxes for anger, fear and sadness. All of us are entitled to our feelings. We have much to fear and much to be angry about in this country. Crime heads the list of pressing problems. It’s important to understand that anger and fear can be gifts – if we channel them into positive actions. Spewing venomous talk gets us nowhere. It’s worse than spinning tops in mud. It’s counterproductive.
Every day, I wake up and repeat the words of Audrey Lorde, an American civil rights activist and librarian, who said, “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
We give holidays a sense of purpose. If we don’t stop to think about the meaning of our holidays, then we lose touch with ourselves and our traditions. If we think of each holiday as nothing more than a day off of work, then that says a lot about our personal and social values – or lack of them.
Take some time to think about that, and then come up with a plan of action. Give Boxing Day the meaning it deserves.
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