Friday, November 30, 2007

Christmas Joy

Americans are advised to focus on our marketability and security, but we have all heard and read anecdotes similar to this one: At a 25th class reunion of Yale Law School, half were unhappy or bored with their work as lawyers, despite making comfortably high incomes.

I wish this comment by Bertrand Russell would invade our marketplace: “It is preoccupation with possessions . . . that prevents us from living freely and nobly.”

John Stuart Mill said that those only are happy who are fixed on something other than their own happiness—on the happiness of others or some ideal end. Then, “they find happiness by the way.” Chinese Taoist Chuang-tse described happiness as “the absence of striving for happiness.” The renowned missionary Albert Schweitzer observed that real happiness comes from serving. Michael Lerner and T.S. Eliot observed that joy comes from sacrifice.

William James wrote that to feel vitally alive we need to follow our inner voice, the one saying, “This is the real me.” But “many of us believe in one way and live in quite another.” So said Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, author of My Grandfather’s Blessings who has done ground-breaking work with cancer patients. “The worst thing in life isn’t death,” she said. “The worst thing in life might be to miss it.” She saw people approaching the end of life, never having really lived.

Remen and others are quoted in World Ark, a magazine by Heifer International I suggest it as a way of finding satisfaction in Christmas buying.

Heifer gives animals we buy to needy families. The gift keeps giving, because the animals keep supplying food and offspring. And a whole community benefits because each recipient family is required to pass on a healthy offspring of their animal to another family. In addition, Heifer trains the whole community in sustainable agriculture. Besides heifers, their catalog offers goats, sheep, llamas, rabbits, bees, and much more.

Piling more material stuff onto kids and grownups who have enough violates the spirit of Christmas. Instead of spending money on gadgets and trinkets that burden our shared home, the planet earth, let’s light up the eyes of loved ones with gifts bringing genuine joy. Words of appreciation. A pledge to perform a needed task. An object we’ve spent hours making. Or, in their name, an animal from Heifer that brings life to a family and community.


Jeanette said...

Kathleen was unable to post her comment on the blog and sent it directly to me instead. All readers can do that by clicking on Contact and my name. Here's Kathleen's comment:
We give at Christmas through each year and our children appreciate it. Last year, I made my own cards for our grandchildren from the pictures on the Heifer site and included information about what the pig and the sheep do for other children/ families/communities who are poor. I bought a little stuffed animal pig and a sheep to represent the gifts in their honor so they had a more tangible gift to hold and understand. The adults did not need anything other than a card! We gave these gifts on Christmas Eve. ( has great e-mail cards as well as fold out cards it mails to the donor so you DO NOT have to make your own.)

It is especially meaningful to give to those less fortunate at Christmas instead of buying things that we or our loved ones do not need or won't use. If we continue to tell our little ones the story of Jesus who was born in a stable and who grew up to be an advocate for the poor, then when we celebrate his birth, we should honor his life by also advocating for the poor.

Irving Karchmar said...

Your previous post was really a wonderful tribute to the true spirit of Christmas, giving to others as a family. Of course Christmas has been a travesty.

And did google buy blogspot? All the blogspot blogs now cannot be commented on except if you have a google account.

Peace and Many Blessings!