Dame Susan Devoy: the real gift is in the giving

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It just seems appropriate at this time of year to endeavour to get into the festive spirit.

The floods in Nelson remind us again of what a difficult year many have faced. We have family coming from Christchurch and rather than the usual discussions about presents, I sense they are simply looking forward to a change of scenery and spending time with family. The material things are no longer a priority.

While the words below are not mine - although I wish I could be that eloquent - they do, by and large, echo my sentiments about Christmas. I am sure President Obama wouldn't think this was plagiarism:

"For 89 years presidents and Americans have come together to light the National Christmas tree, and this year is a special one. This year we have a brand new tree. The last one was here for more than 30 years until we lost it in a storm this year.

"But we all know that tradition is much larger than any single tree. Tonight once again we gather here not to simply light some decorations but to honour a story that lights the world.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

"More than 2000 years ago a child was born to two faithful travellers who could only find rest among the cattle and the sheep. But this was not just any child. Christ's birth made the angels rejoice and attracted shepherds and kings from afar. He was a manifestation of God's love for us and he grew up to be a leader with a servant's heart who taught us a message as simple as it is powerful - that we should love our neighbour as ourselves.

"That teaching has come to encircle the globe. It has endured for generations and today it lives at the heart of my Christian faith and that of millions of Americans.

"No matter who we are, or where we come from or how we worship, it's a message that can unite us all in the holiday season.

"So long as the gifts and the parties are happening, it's important for us to keep in mind the central message of the season and keep Christ's words not only in our thoughts, but also in our deeds.

"In this season of hope, let's help those who need it most, the homeless, the hungry, the sick and the shut in. In the season of plenty, let's reach out to those who struggle to find work or provide for their families. In this season of generosity, let's give thanks and honour to the troops and our veterans and their families who sacrificed so much for us and let's welcome them coming home.

"And this holiday season let us re-affirm our commitment to each other as family, neighbours and as Americans regardless of our colour, creed or race."

I love Christmas for all the reasons above. However, like so many, I could put some of the above mentioned into practice.

It is so easy to get overwhelmed by the commercialisation around this period especially with children who have expectations that they will be indulged even years after they discovered Santa was a fraud. All of the aid agencies have great suggestions on their websites if you wish to support children from Third World countries.

Or if you believe that charity starts at home you can easily donate to the foodbank or even the Salvation Army who are looking for people to adopt a family in which parents are unable to buy presents for their own children.

Perhaps it's time to have that conversation in your family. If we don't teach them how will they learn the real gift is in the giving?

- Bay of Plenty Times

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