Rod MacKenzie
Rod MacKenzie

Yay,Secret Santas! We just gotta give

I will never forget it. I was one of those young men back in the early eighties who had a choice: two years’ military conscription or four years in jail. I disliked either option but chose the shorter “jail” sentence and thankfully ended up as a telex operator. One of the little businesses going on under the table was standing guard duty at night for other national servicemen for a fee. I took my hard-earned extra money and bought five Pink Floyd albums and a pair of headphones. These were things I had been longing for for months. However, as I stared at my new purchases I felt a strange emptiness. Spending money on me came with no sense of gratification. I had only focused on giving to myself, not others.

Let’s face it: it’s difficult not to be focused on oneself and one’s own needs. Most of our energy, time and money are spent looking out for Number One. We just need to look at our credit card statements to see who we are spending most, if not all, our money on.

Though of no religious belief (but with a boarding school Anglican background), I find myself ardently and perhaps futilely “praying” for a change in human consciousness at times. A key problem with us is our selfishness. Almost certainly naively, I like to think that all the sudden changes in North African countries, along with the “Occupy” movements spreading worldwide, indicate that there is the beginnings of a change in consciousness, that could — dramaturgic as it may sound — save the human race.

Certainly the online technologies we now have for the first time allow global movements to take place, such as the revolutions that have taken place in North Africa.

And now we have this lovely warm fuzzy phenomenon, Secret Santas. In the US, people have started paying off small store account debts anonymously or settling layaway accounts, particularly gifts for small children. Apparently it is spreading across the US like wildfire, and the communication tools we now have, like Facebook and Twitter, must have a lot to do with that. May this “movement” become global and not cease after the silly season.

My missus Marion came home the other day with some flowers for me (to say sorry for leaving the oil heater on all day). “You didn’t have to, but let me give the flowers back to you”, I said. “Why do you look so sad?” “Because the flower lady looked so cold. She was literally shivering” I knew who she was talking about. There is a middle-aged, spindly lady with a perpetual smile on her face who stands next to a nearby canal with trays of flowers for sale. So what came to mind may be too sugary-touchy-feely for some. “Let’s give her one of your old jerseys”, I blurted.

But we couldn’t find her. We assumed she had gone home and unfortunately we have never seen her again. But the warm glow inside was most appropriate. It was as if God (and to me “God” is just a meaningless word but one which points to a greater reality than any of us can understand, the numinous thrum that holds the entire universe together) had smiled at me, touched me for at least trying.

Then take Christmas. By coincidence an old friend of Marion’s, Vikki, who when younger used to play with Marion’s children (from her first husband) happens to be now teaching in a small town, Wuxi, just outside where we are in Suzhou. She was on her own and asked if she could join us for Christmas. We were thrilled. I confess I was not looking forward to Christmas as it would just be Marion and me again. I was just going to push through Christmas and put on a brave smiley face for Marion’s sake. But now we got all busy, getting Christmas decorations and a small tree up. Marion put together a proper Christmas lunch: a wonderful pork roast with stewed apple sauce and cinnamon. We did all this because we were able to give to just one guest. We were able to be a blessing to another, to use the perhaps sugary religious phrase. Like wow. The three of us enjoyed Christmas together, grateful for one another, giving one another little gifts. On our budget we can’t afford much and I gave Marion a pair of gloves and she got me a smart leather wallet. We got Vikki some bling and she got us choccies and biscuits. We were all smiles and so happy to be able to turn Christmas into something meaningful, because of the oft neglected gift of sharing.

And it is high time the human race learned to be grateful for one another. We are a looong way from that and it may never come. But I do understand from evolutionary science that evolutions happen in “leaps”. For example, a prehistoric animal evolving wings for flight cannot have half-arms and half-wings. Otherwise it would be lunch for other animals. So … sudden revolutions in North Africa? The Occupy movements? Hey, and Secret Santas?

All touch-feely wishful thinking, but what do you expect from a bloke who has taught children most of his adult life and who tries to write poetry?

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