The Thanksgiving turkey and ham have been consumed and December is just days away. For most people, December 1 will flag the start of a fevered race of over-the-top shopping and a continuation of the feasting launched in November. I wondered what I could write of value to my readers before some of us get lost in a fog of excessive consumption. Then a character in a fairly lightweight Christmas film uttered two lines that are closely connected and reflect my own beliefs. Let me share them with you as nearly as I can remember them. First, what you hold in your heart is far more important that what you can hold in your hand and, secondly, the gift of giving love and being loved in returned should be central to our lives.
Those lines set me thinking about what we have considered important in 2018 and to what should we give priority as the days of December unfold and we move into a new year. So, let’s take stock of what I hold to be the three cardinal points of our existence: ourselves—body, mind, spirit/soul; family and friends and thirdly, our country. I offer some questions to assist all who have the courage to begin the examination.
Your body—how have you treated it in the eleven past months? Did you treat as a temple or dump site? If you consider your body one of your most precious gifts, you would have made an effort to begin to jettison habits that are not conducive to its health—excessive consumption of salt, sugar, harmful fats, coupled with little or no exercise. Corned beef and grits and fried chicken and peas and rice may be cultural, but the vast quantities of both we consume should not be excused under the heading of culture or tradition.
Have you refined and strengthened you mind/intellect? If you have, you will have read several good books in the course of the year, including a least one great work of literature. You would have learned a least one new skill or polished several existing ones. To what degree have you contributed to the growth of your employer’s business or your own through problem-solving, creativity and innovation or have you simply functioned as counterweight to progress and profit? Unless you can demonstrate these inputs, why would you seek promotion at work? That’s smacks of dishonesty. It amounts to stealing from your employer and diminishing your own integrity—robbing yourself of the greatness each human being has the potential to achieve.
What about your spirit or soul? Although almost inexpressible and defined in unique ways from culture to culture, it does exist. Have you meditated on the reason for your existence, your purpose for living or how you fit into earth’s grand scheme? Have you the kind of faith that is ‘the substance of things not seen’ and allows you to take leaps of faith? Have you set time aside for worship, even if it takes the form of thankfulness for the beauties of the world we have been given? If this essential part of ourselves is not fed, your life will be sadly lacking. No matter that you have been faithful to ‘carb’ reduction and have ‘spun’ faithfully at the gym or the expense piece of exercise equipment in your home, you will not be able to nourish the people who depend upon you or our world to which our goodwill and stewardship are essential.
Let’s look at your human relationships. Have they faded more than flourished in 2018? If you have spent more time in contention with family and friends, it is hardly likely that those connections have benefited. Are you more likely to have dealt with conflict with angry, joy stripping words? Has ‘winning’ rather than healing been your goal. How many times in the past months have you said ‘I love you’ and meant it? How many times have you shown love expressed in kindness, fairness and restraint? How much love have you shown in charitable giving?
Now, let’s look at a large relationship that is so often neglected or disavowed altogether—connection to country. The biggest problem has been that too many Bahamians choose to take the role of receivers, rather than contributors. Sadly, this year there have been an increasing number of complaints, more lawsuits and threats against individuals, companies and government. We own no personal responsibility for the current economic state. It’s always someone else’s fault.
Is it though? We are experiencing budgetary shortfalls, poor articulation between government goals, legislation and the needs of private sector enterprise, and poisonous political machinations, a noxious combination feeding economic and social turmoil. Can we deny that rampant corruption, poor work ethics, family dysfunction, mismatches between worker competence and task, as well as a shortfall between leadership quality and preparedness and leadership assignments are major contributing factors to our ills? From day to day, many Bahamians give little thought to the protection of fellow Bahamians and our precious natural resources. We owe much to the faithful individuals, organizations and civic associations who keep the lamps of our country shining brightly.
Each of us can give and have an obligation to give. It is simply not optional. If we fail to give, we fail ourselves. If more and more people go jobless, homeless and hungry, giving becomes essential, or the trouble comes home to us.
We have a headstart over many, many countries. I recently visited the Eleuthera mainland, travelling there by Bahamas Ferries, deliberately taking the slow ROROS—five hours out and seven back home, heavy seas influencing the added time in the latter case. Bravo that the voyages began precisely on time as scheduled. The crew were gracious and helpful. It’s an attitude my party found at Pineapple Fields and at local restaurants. The Eleutherans, more than most, are still in the habit of giving a pleasant greeting to everyone they pass. Moreover, they put many Nassauvians in the shade when it comes to service.
The land and the waters of the Eleuthera group lack nothing in beauty or potential for productivity and this is the story throughout our extraordinary archipelago. While on the sea, I had the joy of seeing a passing pod of dolphins.
We have been divinely gifted with the foundation of good fortune. It only needs us to get wise and get building. If we get smart, we will create a system that can not only beneficially embrace all Bahamians, but also contribute to saving our distressed world. The blocks and mortar come from believing that what we hold in our hearts is worth far more than what we can hold in our hands.