Christmas Among the Poor

Things I love about Africa…… No Christmas shopping. A Simple Christmas

Crowded malls put my blood pressure up. I’d go shopping in December to some madhouse store, almost stand in line, but then wouldn’t,  after asking myself, “Is this really worth this much of my life?”  The answer usually was no, so I’d put it back and do something that was life enriching instead. The idea of someone actually desiring to “hang out” in a mall, “for something to do”,  blows my mind.

I am not sharing these stories to suggest there is some higher “moral” thing going on inside of me and not you. Rather, it’s an simple insight into what makes the invisible humanitarian tick.

While everyone at home is in the Christmas rush, and bustle…. there is no rush and bustle for Christmas here.  I always find myself saying, “Oh, Christmas is the day after tomorrow. What do you want to do for dinner?”  Just another day, with the local market and stores in full swing. Except for the handful of Christians in this region, some of whom stay up all night Christmas eve, to sing, pray and visit,  then share a big meal together on Christmas day. Every year I contribute a financial token to that community to help with “the preparations”. But I have never actually been there for the Christmas celebration, as one year I was down with an eight-teen hour bug of some sort, that saw me in bed with not enough energy to lift my head, and so dizzy I could not stand up anyway.

I may not miss the Christmas rush. But I do miss the Christmas connection. 

This is our third Christmas in Mali, and we did not have any stuff to decorate with. However, this year, an American friend we’ve gotten to know loaned us a one foot high Christmas tree, and another two footer that we set up in our sitting room. The smaller plastic tree is on my desk, we draped some blinking lights around it, with the end of the string running across my desk. I love colors, bold earthy colors. Christmas lights are a neat invention, and they really help me to sense Christmas is here, and perk me up a bit.

But really, I still see no need to bring Christmas stuff in my bags, when my bags are reserved for stuff to help feed families.

When altruism meets tradition.

Christmas meets poverty.

Self meets others.

A Christmas tree for me…. or irrigation kits and water filters for Struggling families? Hum….

Yes, that is the gut level where we humanitarians live at.

When you live among poverty, Christmas changes for you, forever.  The degree of that change varies greatly between internationals.  

Some of my favorite moments are hanging out with family. Enjoying days and evenings home in snowstorms, or bundling up and walking in knee deep snow to my brother’s place to experience “storm-stayed” together. Or, when you wake up on a crisp morning, heavy snow falling (or has fallen), and everything is cancelled. You put the Christmas lights on and get to sit at home with a hot cup of tea, a book, and be home with your family, eating a nice late breakfast. This is not nostalgic, that is a highlight of life – relationships with people.  

Personally, I couldn’t give a hoot about gifts, and the canned events. However, I do enjoy hosting people this time of year. I enjoy hospitality, inviting people over, people dropping in in Canada. I enjoy hanging out with people; Wish more of them enjoyed hanging out with me there.  That is one thing we do have here…. people who make time for relationships.  No one would turn their nose up an an invitation here.  

Off to the village, to put my twig in the hole of a leaking dam. 

Maybe a Christmas tree could help plug that hole?   

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