“No one has ever become poor by giving.” ― Anne Frank, diary of Anne Frank: t
Come December our small yet extremely respected all-girls Missionary school would light up! December cheer would spread like wild fire and warm every little girl’s heart. Teachers would smile more. The strict rules were relaxed, and our tight schedules were let go. It was Christmas after all!
That time of the year again! When you’d see a fraction of us girls involved in the Christmas play. The same play that we’d run each year, the scene of the stable where Jesus was born, there’d be a girl dressed as Mary and another dressed as Joseph and there’d be others dressed as the three wise kings. Our otherwise dormant choir would come to life. From hymns to Christmas carols they’d practice at another corner. Beside them would be a set of girls preparing banners and decorations to echo the mood of the season, with reds,whites and greens, our open hall would look so neat, all ready for the winter fare.
Everyone would chip in. Everyone was happy. Christmas was here!
But what made Christmas so special was our school Christmas projects! As kids we did not get it! We’d be asked to make two 9 by 9 woolen patches with scrap wool and submit to our seniors, asked to contribute old newspapers, we were each asked to bring a few potatoes and some rice , old stationary, old clothes, medicines. Each year mom would pack everything meticulously and send with me. All I cared for was which teacher was gonna dress as Santa this year and how loud we’d sing jingle bells, and how much candy I’d take home and which class would win the ‘best decorated class’ award. Wasn’t that what Christmas was all about? To me, a Hindu girl from a small town, Christmas meant just another fun festival.
Well, me finally going to middle school changed everything. I learnt what Christmas was really all about, now that we were more involved in the school Christmas project. I could now see that just a handful of rice and two potatoes from each home was able to feed many on the streets who otherwise would sleep empty stomach on Christmas. I could see that the few old newspapers each girl brought amounted to few rooms full and selling them to the scrap collector gave us enough money to buy gifts for the less fortunate.
Those woolen patches we would stitch together, and use old bed sheets to make several warm blankets for the homeless each year. We would invite people from orphanages and old homes to come enjoy Christmas with us. We’d put up performances for them, we’d try our best to make them happy. Their smiles was so precious. They were invited to set small shops in school where handmade cards, Christmas candles and decorations were sold. You could see how their face lit up each time you’d appreciate or buy from them.
We’d also take some blankets, food and gifts to our local blind school. That had to be the the best part of the day. The children there would wait for us eagerly. Each year we’d all get together and sing Christmas carols, dance to songs. Believe me, it meant more to us than to them. On my first visit to blind school, I remember making friends with a beautiful girl called Rani. She had the most beautiful smile. She sang like a dream and I remember listening to her mesmerized. She decided to write me my name in braille on a piece of paper which I have preserved till date. I am so glad we met! When I was about to leave she felt my face with her hand and told me, you have beautiful eyes. I was 14 then, and I for the first time shed tears for reasons not so trivial. I could see that I was growing up, in a world which can be cruel to people without reasons, a world which was not fair to everyone.
But then my school gave me a valuable lesson for life, it taught me to have more heart, to be more human, more kind, more warm, more sensitive and I would be forever indebted for the favour.
Today, I carry those values close to my heart. The lesson that you do not have to be rich to be able to help. It taught me the joy of giving. I learnt that putting a smile on someone’s face is bigger that any treasures in the world. It taught me what Christmas was really all about.
So this Christmas, let us all enjoy roast turkey and plum cakes, Let us all enjoy family time and eggnog, let us all cozy up and sing aloud, let our Christmas trees be high and beautiful, but let us also not forget our friends whose Christmas’ still need to be lit up! let us light their candles too.
Merry Christmas to all!