Last month I predicted that Hilary Clinton would be our next President, boy, was I shocked on election night. She did win the popular votes, that much I predicted accurately, but unfortunately Donald Trump was triumphant with getting the magic number of the electoral college votes. Many of the Chinese who followed the election here in Suzhou, China are also amazed in Hillary Clinton’s lose. My Chinese friends and my students are wondering what the future may hold for America - I tell them that only time will tell but I don’t think Donald Trump will be a great leader for the American people.
I don’t dwell on Trump’s victory and I told my students that I am one of those people who simply enjoy the sharing and to give thanks for the special people in my life. That truly makes this time of year special for me especially here in Suzhou, China.
I surely have plenty to be thankful for because throughout my life people have gone out of their way to be kind to me and the Chinese here are no exception. I once told my students in class when you care for others you are cared for and when you love others you are loved. This special season of giving should reveal our love for one another through kindness because loving kindness gives this special season its true meaning.
The cities in China are all lit up now with Christmas lights and they are so beautifully displayed that also brings out the Christmas spirit in me. The Chinese also enjoy celebrating this special season with the lighting of bonfires. Some sing songs and dance around the large glowing fires. They set off large firework displays as well in the night sky. It is an ancient tradition that goes back thousands of years. It’s one of their ways of coming together as an entire community to celebrate their abundance and to be thankful for having one another in their lives. That is just one of the reasons I find this season so special here.
The first time I participated in a Chinese Christmas festivity was seven years ago and little children ran up to me wearing Christmas caps and yelling “Merry Christmas, Mr. Tom.” They then handed me a chocolate candy bar. I quickly pulled out my BlackBerry phone and tried to capture the moment on video. The Children playfully jumped up and down in front of my BlackBerry as I recorded them dancing around a bonfire. The children here are extremely affectionate and funny and they know how to pull on your heart strings. The adults here are also gracious especially when I participate in this festive season with them and I always have a great time with the kids.
Here like in America Parents and children alike take great joy in Santa’s arrival on Christmas Day. I also enjoy seeing the young children’s faces light up at the sight of Santa the jolly old soul.
There was a time though when I felt the season of giving was simply a common courtesy in order to receive and provide our significant others with material gifts.
I now understand more clearly that this special season is for heartfelt acts of gratitude for having people in our lives. When keeping the true spirit of giving close to heart it enables us to give from the heart all year-round.
The yuletide season should be a time when our love comes to call because that love gives this time of year its true meaning.
What intrigues me about the Christmas season here in China is that the majority who celebrate this time of year are non-Christian. The Buddhists have embraced the season as a way of giving thanks.
I have found over the years though that it's not the material gifts that count in life but rather it's the unrecognized, undetected, and unremembered acts of loving kindness that are our greatest gifts and achievements in life.
If we truly want to see a world of loving and joyous people we must be loving and joyous towards the people in our own lives. That potential is part of our humanity. When we reach out and touch others we touch part of the humanity that is within us. When we enhance the life of another in need we in turn enhance our own lives.
Objects gift-wrapped in shiny paper can be forgotten over time but kindness whispered to those in need will echo endlessly throughout the community. Those small acts of kindness resonate with the giver and the receiver because they are gifts from the heart. Such priceless gifts can never be measured monetarily though because how can you put a price on love?
From my heart to yours I would like to wish all of you a very merry and joyous holiday season.
- Always with love from Suzhou, China
Thomas F O’Neill
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